If you haven’t experienced skinning your knee off or having allergies, being wet under the rain or burning your skin under the sun, believe me when I say you just missed half your life right there.
Studies show that free play has waned by 40 percent since the ’70s – it’s vanishing from our kids’ lives. Children these days probably are not familiar with playing outside anymore. Parents have become overprotective and who wouldn’t be? With the increasing rate of crime incidents, we can only do so much to ensure that our children are kept unharmed and healthy. However, there’s a difference between being careful and being paranoid.
Play is recognized as a right of every child by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth”. They continue that “even those children who are fortunate enough to have abundant available resources and who live in relative peace may not be receiving the full benefits of play.”
As a struggling parent I noticed that playing is something that my own children prefer to do indoors. For some reason, I could not, no matter how I try, convince them to get on their feet and rub shoulders with other children. Then I realized, our world is indeed changing more rapidly than ever and every now and then we switch to new routines before we realize it. The introduction to the iPad, the iPhone and all other products with an “I” on them already made playing outside a thing of the past. Even those parents who still wish for their children to have enough exposure to the world outside are having a hard time convincing their kids to see some sun on a good day. Unfortunately, I am in the same boat.
Humans are mobile. We are ever moving and we want to be everywhere. Staying in just one corner will eventually bore us. It is therefore important that we create an outlet that we can turn to whenever we need to relieve stress. The case is the same for our children. We cannot expect our kids to get the same health benefits as kids who play outside while our own are just stuck in one corner of the house playing all kinds of games in their tablet.
Because encouraging children to play outside poses as a major challenge in parenting, you might want to consider the following collection of tips to make your convincing powers stronger in pushing your kids to explore the world outside:
1. Create a child-friendly backyard playground if you have the space to do so.
2. Provide children a place on the doorway, deck or in the bedroom where they can keep stuff that they saw while playing outside.
3. Spend time together outdoors as a family. Whatever you do, no matter how mundane such as laundry or cleaning the car, involve the children so that they can be introduced to the daily grind of life.
4. Boost plenty of time outside. You can consider taking a walk to the nearest library with your kid while explaining to them the value of the place.
5. Allow them to socialize. Perhaps inviting a friend over to play would be a good reinforcement for the child to play outside. Set up a fun outdoor invitation to play and leave them to it.
6. Take children fishing or other activities involving nature.
7. If you have a suitable space, let older children build a bonfire in the backyard. Orient them with safety rules, and then keep distance while the children enjoy conversations. Make sure to still keep an eye on them from a far in case they’ll need anything.
8. A fail-safe child entertainer; create a challenge game for kids such as the Amazing Race. Provide a reward to entice them even more.
9. No single kid hates water. As a physical activity it aids brain development, it also lays underpinnings for future scientific and mathematical learning, as for now though kids simply want to pour and stir.
10. Do not be stressed about the mess after play. Always be ready with water and rag in the event the sand and dirt from play plods through the house.
11. Make it a habit and not just a once in a blue moon kind of thing. It would be wise to consistently spend time outdoors.
Encouraging our children to play outside not only has good effects on them, I really believe that they also have good effects on us as parents as they continue to test our creative skills to keep our children’s interest focused. You know what they say, “Every day is important to reassuring a child’s engagement with natural places as playful spaces”.