A problem shared by mother-of-four and GP Clare Bailey

A problem shared by mother-of-four and GP Clare Bailey: How can I get grandchildren to swap screens for sunshine?

  • An anonymous person explains their grandchildren are found in front of the TV
  • But are massively resistant to going outside or enjoying walks during weekends
  • The person asked GP Clare Bailey for advice on how to handle the situation

Mother-of-four and GP Clare Bailey (pictured)

Q My two granddaughters are aged four and six, and I’m worried about how sedentary they’re becoming. I have to tread carefully with my daughter — so I want to make my point well.

When I come round after school, the girls are slumped in front of the television. If I try to get them into the garden or drag them out for walks during weekend visits, they’re massively resistant.

I can hear that my neighbours’ children of a similar age are often outside. As I child I played happily in our small garden and went to the park. What’s wrong with messing around outdoors? Surely, it’s not good to be stuck inside all day?

A I love seeing children playing outdoors — and the best time to start is when they are young. This is the age to explore and make mud pies. But it’s easier said than done, particularly if your daughter is not keen.

Perhaps you could share with her some of the latest evidence about the health benefits of playing outside, such as the finding that ‘outdoor’ children tend to have better physical skills, a healthier weight and stronger bones compared with their ‘indoor’ peers.

They are also likely to have better balance, coordination and agility. What’s more, there is evidence that spending time outside also helps children’s emotional health and intellectual development.

On top of that, if they’re mixing with other children it can boost social skills — negotiating, seeing different perspectives and being independent, all important skills for growing resilience.

And getting your hands dirty can be good for health as it seeds healthy microbes in the gut, leading to an improved microbiome and good health.

Once you have your daughter onboard, how about the kids?

You might start with short trips and perhaps a bit of bribery at first — like a treat or ice cream.

As a grandparent you are in the ideal position to blaze the trail and have fun with them outdoors, whether that’s in the garden or in the park (and it’s good for you, too). You can chase them around, search for pine cones, look for flowers or squrriels.

Some children are not used to romping around, getting wet and muddy. But with wellies and a waterproof coat, they can go out any time, giving them a sense of adventure; something that builds confidence and strength in adversity.

A more drastic approach, common in Scandinavia, sees families embracing learning outside the classroom. This might involve after-school activities, weekends and holidays, or the full immersive experience of moving the school outdoors, known as Forest School.

Many UK primary schools have now adopted elements of forest school with designated areas for outdoor learning.

For more information, visit and

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Therapy dogs are often employed in schools and nursing homes to reduce anxiety. But new research shows that our canine companions can also improve the wellbeing of patients in A&E, reducing anxiety and even leading to a reported reduction in pain. Canadian researchers determined that as little as 10 minutes with a dog resulted in significant changes in pain. That said, much as I love our little spaniel, her barking would more likely make any symptoms worse. 

Therapy dogs are often employed in schools and nursing homes to reduce anxiety (stock photo)

Therapy dogs are often employed in schools and nursing homes to reduce anxiety (stock photo)

I am always looking for healthy lower-carb and higher protein alternatives to foods such as pasta. Pasta is a wonderful comfort food, but it tends to be starchy and promote weight gain.

So I was delighted to find an alternative that uses a single whole ingredient —yellow peas. Zenb ( is not only higher in protein and lower in carbs, it also delivers around three times more fibre than regular pasta. And to boost its eco credentials, it uses far less water to grow. There are other less starchy options in supermarkets as well, such as pea pasta, that have almost as good a profile.


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