By Jessica Jones
If your childhood was anything like mine, you probably remember spending nearly every free moment outdoors: jumping rope, riding bikes, skating, or playing hide-and-seek with friends. Only my mom’s screams of, “DINNER!” would finally begin to pull me back indoors.
Today my neighborhood sounds more like a ghost town than a playground, and it’s not just my imagination.
Nearly half of the preschool children in a very recent Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine study were reported to not have even one parent-supervised outdoor play opportunity per day.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why kids aren’t getting “outside time” anymore, a couple of culprits are easy to target:
- The popularity of sedentary activities. Technology is awesome, but not when it means that your kids spend all of their leisure time on the computer, playing video games or watching T.V.
Solution: Limit tech time and don’t use it as a babysitter. We know that moms get busy and it’s so easy to plop a child in front of Nick Jr., while taking care of other business, but remember that kids need a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity per day. For those times when you just need a break, try putting on some music and have them “dance the wiggles out” instead.
- Lack of safe places to play. Many families in urban communities don’t have access to safe public play areas. If you don’t have a yard or patio for outdoor play, the only option is the public park. However, an increase in crime and decreased access to transportation can make this difficult for some families. In those situations, it’s going to take some creativity to get your kids moving.
Solution: Try some fun indoor games like balloon volleyball or “swimming” in the tub (practice kicks and arm strokes), or exercise videos for kids.
Initiatives to help bring fun, physical activity back into communities are popping up all around the country. Why not get involved? Here are a few to check out:
Michelle Obama’s nationwide Let’s Move! campaign focuses on bringing an end to childhood obesity (according to the CDC, obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the U.S. – triple the rate from one generation ago).
First 5 LA, a child advocacy organization that focuses on families with children prenatal to five years old, is launching a campaign called Get Out and Play! in an effort to encourage an increase in active play throughout Los Angeles county.
Action for Healthy Kids works with schools nationwide to help kids learn to eat right and be active every day.
KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) is a nonprofit, volunteer-led organization, serving the Greater Washington, D.C. area, which provides free recreational opportunities for children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities.
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