X = X-ercise
Do you remember playing outside after school and during the weekends when you were a kid? Chances are that you spent more time playing when you were a child than your own kids do today, especially outside. Experts chalk a decline in outdoor play up to multiple factors, including higher academic standards and an increase in video game and computer use among younger kids. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that many children are missing out on the benefits of having time to play outside.
Outdoor play is an important part of a child’s physical, emotional and social development. Making outdoor play a priority in your child’s life allows them time to improve their gross motor skills, exercise their imaginations, and practice problem-solving skills. Encouraging your children to play outside is also an important part of maintaining their health. Core body strength, flexibility and developed lung capacity will set your child up for a healthy, active life. Creating a habit of play and physical activity when kids are young will make it easier for them to maintain an active lifestyle when they get older, which many adults consider the key to a healthy, balanced life.
As many as half of American children are not getting enough exercise, which can increase the risk of serious health problems in kids as young as five.
- Explore! Choose an area that allows kids to run and touch many of the things they’ll find in their environment, like rocks and leaves. Ask them questions about what they’re seeing to encourage conversation and a sense of exploration.
- Get gear for outdoor games. Having balls and other equipment around for team sports encourages kids to play outside and with other kids. Take the lead by inviting other children in your neighborhood over for a game. Often equipment can be scored at a yard sale or used goods store.
- Schedule play time. The best way to ensure your kids play outside is to plan to make time. Make going for a walk or a local park a part of your weekly routine and set aside a little time each day for outdoor play. You might even go outside and play a game with your kids and count it as your own workout time!
- Post a map in your house. Have you been to every playground in your town? Every bike path? Every park? Every soccer net? Mark them off with pins, or have your children work with you on an annotated Google map.
- Become a pro. Have your family adopt a specialty that you document with photos or video. Learn jump-rope songs. Sled the best hills in town. Time the kids going down slides or taking bike laps around the empty baseball field. Fly a new kite every year and make memories while you are building muscles.
Visit the Lets Move website to learn about First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to encourage children to play more. The National Wildlife Federation also offers great resources for parents who want to help kids get outside more often.