Four Reasons Playtime Is Dead, and Why They're Wrong.
Parents who structure and limit playtime do their kids a disservice.
Playtime is dead. A bevy of studies show that fewer kids are going outside to play and girls are less likely than boys to play outdoors. As a new generation of kids grows up interacting with the world from a sitting position in front of a TV or gaming console, the problems are starting to show.
Allowing kids to have unstructured playtime outdoors is of great benefit to their development.
From obesity, to social awkwardness, to clinical depression, kids are suffering from being stuck indoors where the Sun can't help them generate vitamin D, online play and television can't help their bodies develop, and pollution levels are higher.
Play is important, in fact it is every bit as important to the development of a healthy child as academic learning. Unfortunately, schools have cut back on recess time, physical education and the arts to focus on their revenue streams, revenues which come from attendance and standardized test scores in the "core subjects." Sadly, physical fitness and arts the aren't considered core subjects (although they should be).
Play is natural human behavior. In addition to providing physical development, it also stimulates creative thinking, social adjustment, and a great number of life lessons that simply can't be learned in the classroom or measured on a standardized test. Yet, these proficiencies are likely to be better indicators of future success and well-being than test scores.
Although public parks, backyards, and suburban streets abound, kids aren't getting their playtime.
Parents cite stranger danger, bullying, lack of supervision and time as to why kids don't play as much as they used to. They also blame console games and media for kids preferring to remain indoors regardless of what a nice day it is outside.
Stranger danger - Statistics show that kids are in very little danger from strangers at parks. In fact, if such a case occurs, it makes national headlines precisely because of its rarity. Despite popular fear, predators simply aren't plying public spaces seeking children from behind every bush-it's all a myth. Rather, the greatest danger is found within the home and family unit, amongst trusted people who have the most access to children. Abuse typically occurs behind closed doors, not in public. Of course, this doesn't mean parents should throw caution to the wind - teaching children to avoid talking to strangers, asking them to stay in groups, having them check in at regular intervals, and direct supervision are all part of parenting 101.
Bullying - Nothing excuses bullying behavior, but it is part of growing up. Bullying doesn't stop with age and learning how to cope with bullies is an important life skill - one that's usually learned early on the playground. Except for extreme cases, parents shouldn't let fear of bullying keep kids under house arrest, after all when that happens, the bully wins. Instead, teach kids how to address such behavior when they see it and how to cope when they become victims. Reporting should always be encouraged. Besides, a lot of bullying occurs within the family and online, and there's nothing unique about the great outdoors that makes it any worse.
Lack of supervision - The older children get, the less supervision they should have. Helicopter parenting has been thoroughly debunked as a healthy choice for kids. Many parents fear they cannot let their kids out of their sight and insist on absolute supervision provided by themselves or a chaperone. This creates problems if it continues into the formative teenage years. Kids need to explore their own identities and make their own way at some point. Naturally, they should demonstrate some maturity and responsibility before being left unsupervised, but especially for older kids, constant supervision is unnecessary, and even counterproductive. Kids who are constantly monitored into their late teen years can become resentful and rebellious and may develop issues that will impact their relationships later in life. Use your judgment, but give your kids an appropriate degree of freedom, so they learn how to manage themselves once parental supervision is truly gone.
Lack of time -- You only have the time you make. Let me repeat that, you only have the time you make.
It's a great idea for parents to get outside with their kids and enjoy the outdoors. Unfortunately, most parents look at their jobs and household duties and following all that, they need their well earned rest. But sometimes it's okay to let a chore go in exchange for playtime with the kids. After all, the dishes aren't going to run away, and nobody really cares if your grass goes an extra day without mowing. Not every meal needs to be a home-cooked affair, it is okay to pick up something on the fly, or even serve a sandwich for lunch instead of a prepared meal. Make time to play with your kids, even if it means putting off a chore or recording your favorite ...
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