As the recent recipient of my first technological toy, an iPod, I have gotten quite addicted to all of the various apps, games and
fun educational downloads. I’ve become an expert Candy Crusher and can find my way around Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens and SeaWorld with the greatest of ease thanks to my handy dandy park map apps. As much as I’ve enjoyed becoming a tech-savvy mom, I also know when it’s time to turn it off and enjoy the world around me.
A recent press release revealed some surprising, or perhaps not so surprising, results. According to a survey conducted by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Busch Gardens Parks, kids spend only two hours during the week participating in natural, unstructured activities such as riding bikes, playing outdoor games and exploring nature. On weekends, this activity level increases to just a bit more than two hours.
“As parents we remember our own moms opening up the screen door on a summer day and telling us ‘go outside and play,’ and we did, playing with friends from the neighborhood, roller skating and concocting elaborate games,” said Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting. “We fear we’re raising a generation of kids with ‘Natural Fun Deficiency’ who rarely play outside unless as part of planned activities and a coach nearby carrying a whistle and a clipboard.”
Founded by Stacy DeBroff, Mom Central Consulting is the leading social media consulting firm focused on the Mom Market. Their goal is to engage moms in powerful word-of-mouth programs. Their offices are located in Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Canada.
In March of 2013, Mom Central Consulting surveyed 870 moms for their views on natural play, adventure and fun, and the need for more unstructured play in their children’s lives. The 30+ question survey was conducted online, and programmed and analyzed by Mom Central Consulting. All participants belonged to the Mom Central Consulting Testing Panel, which consists of 20,000 American moms spanning a wide variety of demographics.
Based on the survey results, both moms and kids see technology as the culprit in kids spending less time playing outside – 68 percent of moms think their kids spend too much time plugged in, and 44 percent of kids prefer texting to kickball.
Technology isn’t the only deterrent in the outdoor fun scenario. In addition to technology, more than two-thirds of moms feel that family fun takes a backseat to the day-to-day obligations everybody faces.
“This survey found that moms would truly love for their family to play outside together and to experience relaxed, fun, outdoor activities, but real life – ranging from work obligations to carpools to running errands – gets in the way,” DeBroff said. “And the majority of moms feel that their family becomes closer when they spend time together outdoors and feel guilty when it doesn’t happen enough.”
Busch Gardens parks offer one solution for families to get out and enjoy the outdoors. From world-class rides and attractions like Verbolten (Williamsburg, Virginia) and Cheetah Hunt (Tampa, Florida) to up-close animal encounters with Clydesdales, tropical birds and hedgehogs, a visit to a Busch Gardens/SeaWorld theme park can enhance outdoor play and interests in conservation, turning indoor children into outdoor kids.
“Our survey showed that moms realize that ‘Natural Fun Deficiency’ has become a significant challenge and that an increasing gap exists between how parents spent their childhood and what kids today do with their free time,” said Michael Hartman, Busch Gardens Parks’ Senior Marketing Officer for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “That’s why we teamed up with Stacy – so she can help parents bridge this gap and help both kids and parents get outside and have fun.”
Stacy DeBroff’s tips to combat ‘Natural Fun Deficiency’:
- Keep it low-key: Don’t spend time creating a master outdoor curriculum. Encourage them to build a fort, suggest they invite the new neighbor kids over for a backyard soccer game or challenge them to make the most creative mud pie.
- Team up with other moms: When it comes to planning play dates, the survey showed that almost 60 percent of moms never or rarely think about organizing an outdoor-focused get-together, despite the fact that 75 percent of moms want their kids to be more open to outdoor adventure. Work with other moms to banish time in front of the TV or game console and suggest that they go outside for a scavenger hunt of kickball game.
- Group learning activities: Surprise the kids with learning experiences disguised as pure fun. Busch Gardens’ numerous behind-the-scenes tours offer once-in-a-lifetime encounters with animals. Busch Gardens Williamsburg offers a Birds of Prey tour that teaches the important role that birds play in the wild. The Clydesdales and Collies Tour gives an up-close look at a Scottish farm. At Busch Gardens Tampa, moms and kids can take an unforgettable Serengeti Safari in an open-air touring vehicle and visit a state-of-the-art elephant facility.
- Plan a family get-away: According to the survey results, 70 percent of moms rely on vacations as a time for kids to unplug and get away from technology. Planning a family get-away can be a great way for everyone to set aside pressures and obligations and re-connect as a family.
- Explore the great outdoors: To jump start natural, outdoor fun, identify vacation spots with enough outdoor activities to entice every one in the family. For example, a beach vacation offers opportunities for swimming, water sports and beach exploration, while a visit to a theme parks such as Busch gardens provides everything from thrill rides to water fun to animal encounters in natural settings.
- The family who plays together, stays together: Support kids’ newfound outdoor experiences by creating fun, easy to arrange family activities. Take advantage of extended daylight hours to eat dinner on the patio or schedule an impromptu picnic dinner in the backyard.
Other numbers from the Mom Central survey:
- 72 percent of moms report spending much more time playing outside while growing up than their own kids.
- 74 percent of the time, moms report that they or another adult (family member, friend, coach) always or almost always keeps an eye on their child’s outdoor activities.
- 63 percent of moms believe their family’s use of technology cuts into quality family time.
- 49 percent of kids agree and actually ask for more opportunities to engage in more natural, unstructured outdoor play.
- 95 percent of moms wish they could have more fun together as a family.
- 93 percent of kids wish they could have more fun together as a family.
- 93 percent of moms aspire to do more natural, unstructured outdoor activities as a family.
- Over 2/3 of moms feel that family fun time takes a back seat to running errands, making meals, carpooling and parental work obligations.
- 61 percent of moms feel that playing outside together as family brings them closer, and feel guilty when their families don’t get enough natural fun time.
- 58 percent of moms rely on vacation as a way to get kids outside.
- 69 percent of families say what they love most about a theme park experience is family time togetherness.
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I have been invited to a Mom Meetup at Busch Gardens Williamsburg with host Stacy DeBroff. I’m really looking forward to meeting and hearing from Ms. DeBroff. The event is Tuesday, June 18, and I hope to bring back lots of valuable tips to pass along for getting those kids, and sometimes parents, up and out of the house. What should I ask her?
Busch Gardens is part of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which also includes Sesame Place. The company inspires millions through its commitment to entertain, celebrate, connect with and care for the natural world. The parks offer guests a variety of up-close animal encounters, rides and spectacular shows.
Read all about the Mom Meet-Up with Stacy DeBroff at Busch Gardens.