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Do you remember the time you spent outdoors when you were a child? Parents don’t let their children just “go out and play” like parents used to do. Yet outdoor unstructured play promotes imagination, cognitive learning and healthful activity. The lack of experience outdoors, along with a sedentary lifestyle encouraged by computers and technology, has serious implications for the long-term health and well-being of children.

What is keeping kids inside? Parents often mention safety. To counteract this, you can set clear limits and rules that reflect your children’s ages, your neighborhood and available supervisors. For instance, are the children allowed to play in the yard only, or can they explore a nearby park?

For safety – and companionship – ask other parents in the neighborhood if their children can play outside at the same time as your children. Enlist the help of other parents to watch out for the children, or join the children outside yourself.

What about the lure of indoor activities, especially those that involve technology, computers and television? Limit screen time to a couple hours a day. And make your outside area interesting with such activities as gardening, feeding birds or building a fort. (My husband once entertained half the neighborhood with an “archeological dig” in our back yard.)

The Twin Cities has many, many wonderful parks and playgrounds, rivers and lakes, nature centers and campgrounds. Make outdoor time family time. Children and parents alike will benefit from the physical activity and the calming effect of nature.

Please share your favorite outdoor places!

Esther Schak
Parent Educator, Saint Paul ECFE

2 comments:

At June 16, 2010 at 3:11 PM Mary K said...

Amen! So delighted to hear a 'voice of reason' encouraging outdoor free play! There is simply so much benefit to children having time to play with friends outside that I think far outweighs safety concerns.

I really appreciate you addressing the safety issue also.

Children will naturally set up areas in their neighborhood for such a wide variety of play... from the dramatic play that can result from a nifty 'fort' under a stand of trees... to a pick up game of basketball, wiffle ball, or soccer... free play in the neighborhood is a rich 'playground' for growth and development that simply can't come from more orchestrated 'play'.

Thanks and appreciation!

 
At June 24, 2010 at 7:45 AM Minnesota Children's Museum said...

Thanks for the support and comment, Mary!

 

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