I grew up in a little town called Pleasant Hill, Iowa.
I recall playing for hours as a child in Doanes Park.
There were humid summer days spent swinging and playing, hours sledding down the hill during winter, and even learning to ice skate – backwards – stopping only to take a break long enough to stave off frostbite in the warming house.
It was a different time then, I think.
Kids today – no matter what their age – don’t get enough time to just run around and play outdoors. Nationally, parents, state legislators and schools are debating the merits of recess and how much is appropriate.
My teens could use a dose of outdoor fun – and I am betting your kids could too.
That’s why I loved this story published recently in the Asbury Park Press.
In it, Dr. James Proodian, a father of five, makes the case for outside, unstructured play.
Proodian points out the best kind of play doesn’t involve a coach or parent leading the activity, and one that has no particular agenda.
He gives three major reasons for pushing your kids to go outside and just have fun.
The human body was designed to be in motion. Sitting still is one of the unhealthiest activities for human beings, especially for kids whose bodies are still developing.
A sedentary lifestyle, whether that means sitting in front of a TV, computer, tablet or smartphone, is the first step to becoming overweight.
That’s the great thing about unstructured play. It can be anything.
Games. Using their imagination. Climbing on a jungle gym. Just PLAY.
“Kids need to learn how to share, take turns, win, lose and compromise. They need to learn how to solve problems. They need to learn how to fail and succeed. They need to pretend and use their imaginations.”
Finally, Poordian is quick to point out that there’s a big difference between outdoor activity and overly competitive sports at a young age.
In the article he says:
“…today, third- and fourth-graders are playing on competitive travel teams. They’re participating in year-round, highly specialized training. Middle school kids are doing heavy weightlifting. There’s no off season. I know because I treat their injuries.”
That, he notes, can lead to mental stress, fatigue and physical injury.
We have to beware of injuries resulting from the repetitive overuse of certain muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. Strength, flexibility and endurance are things children should grow into naturally.
Do your kids claim to be bored? Let them figure out how to “unbore” themselves.
I keep coming back to the simplest solution when it comes to my kids.
Call (ok, text) a friend and head for the good ol’ community park. Kids can climb jungle gyms, play catch, shoot hoops or play HORSE on the outdoor basketball court.
When’s the last time you or your kids went to the park to hunt out some fun other than last summer’s Pokémon GO craze?