I’ve recently seen some stories about adventure playgrounds for kids in their schoolyards. And I applaud the movement. But, we need to encourage play everywhere. In the parks, in our yards and in the schoolyard.
Kids who play outdoors, kids who get to learn about reasonable risk are kids who are healthy and happy.
Let them play!
The Biggest Risk is Keeping Kids Indoors.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you climbed a tree, or went on a hike in the woods or jumped on your bike with your buddies and went to the park for a picnic?
If you can’t relate to these memories talk to your parents and grandparents. They’ll have lots of stories. Oh, and when we participated in these activities we weren’t supervised by any adults. It was just us and your friends.
These memories are important. We learned how to challenge our bodies in ways that were safe and effective, how to find our way from home to the park or the woods and how to organize a picnic in the park. These activities were integral to our growth and development. Risk-taking and independent play is important for kids to learn how to try new things, how to problem solve and how to recover when things don’t go well.
What are our children’ memories going to look like?
I have been seeing some great stories about playgrounds in schoolyards. But kids need more. Research shows that kids are more likely to be physically active when playing outdoors and less likely to engage in higher levels of physical activity if a parent or supervising adult is present. Despite this, safety concerns lead to excessive supervision and keeping kids indoors. But, is outdoor play really something to fear?
I would guess that we would all agree that kids need to be more active. The problem in that we are also obsessed with keeping them totally safe. We want them to avoid risk because we see that as dangerous. But there is a difference between danger and risk. Risk doesn’t mean courting danger, but it is play that is thrilling and exciting. And yes, there is the possibility of an injury, which can usually be cured with a band-aid and a kiss.
When we keep kids indoors we are not doing them any favours. According to a recent report from the RCMP, the risk that a stranger will abduct your child off the street are one in 14 million, and this risk is cut dramatically when kids are in a group.
Meanwhile, that same child who is safely in her home is more likely to be exposed to cyber-predators and to snack on unhealthy food. Air quality is worse indoors, with increased exposure to common allergens. And in the long term, sedentary behaviours increase the odds of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and mental health problems.
When our children are constantly supervised they may be active, but they are not learning how to become independent, how to problem-solve and how to explore their environment.
It starts with our toddlers. Yes, they need supervision, but they also need to be permitted to direct their own play and work out solutions to problems such as figuring out how to make a teeter-totter work, or putting too much sand in the pail so that it’s too heavy to carry.
Letting our kids go and letting them become independent and play at the park with their friends is a process.
Once they are in elementary school it’s time to teach them how to walk to school on their own with the other kids in the neighbourhood so they all walk together.
It’s not a big step to then let them take themselves to the local park as a group. Some parents are nervous about letting their kids go out and play with other kids because some well-meaning neighbor will call the police. We need to learn that letting kids go out and play with their friends is not neglect, it is positive parenting.
Let’s let our kids play outdoors and with their buddies.
Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.
There are times when digital is the perfect answer and let’s face it, on a holiday having access to hundreds of books on one small tablet is ideal.I always have my kindle with me when I travel.
There are lots of times when a busy parent would like to be able to simply read and my books are digital and make it easier for you to take a look.
Two of my parenting books started as print versions but the third is only digital. The first two are also now in digital format. Who’s in Charge Anyway?talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults.
But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home talks about raising children to become capable young men and women.
The books are down to earth and common sense as well as easy to read. If you want some basic parenting tips and information these books are a good place to start.