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With increasing urbanization, helicopter parenting and more time spent in front of screens, kids today run the risk of spending too much time in ‘no risk’ environments. Some experts also express concern about lack of coordination and behavioral problems that stem from too little outdoor time — in 2005, Richard Loev coined the term “nature deficit disorder.”
Angela Hanscom, a pediatric Occupational Therapist and founder of Timbernook, explains that schools are putting too much structure around recess and other school-sanctioned play periods, and it’s detrimental to children.
According to The New York Times, in 2015, the number of New York City public schools using occupational therapy to help kids focus and learn better, has increased 30%, and Hanscom believes part of the problem is that students don’t have the ability to get their ya-yas out on their own.
Kids need exercise. There’s a reasons schools have recess – kids need an energy outlet if teachers are going to have any hope of getting their attention in class. And any parent of a toddler or preschooler or kindergartner knows that the more energy your kid burns during the day, the easier it is to get them to go to sleep at night. My own children’s schools have had restrictions on recess as a form of punishment for not finishing homework on time.
Hanscom notes even more serious concerns, pointing out that not only do kids not have enough playtime, when they get it, it’s limited and monitored within an inch of its usefulness. And that can be problematic as kids get older, proven by the fact that falls are on the rise as children are growing up clumsier as a result of a lack of development of the vestibulary system, which helps promote balance.
Here is a great visual of the amount of FREE, ACTIVE play children should have on a daily basis. Are your children getting this much?
Think back to your childhood days running from yard to yard with your friends. Engaging in pretend play using whatever you could find outside. I was rarely indoors and never on video games. My friends and I enjoyed playing tag and ghost in the graveyard, and exploring the woods and creeks. Nature is the ultimate sensory experience for children. It naturally provides exposure to sensations that stimulate the visual, tactile, and vestibular system.
Brain Connex Therapy recommends children get daily doses of outdoor play to improve brain maturity, connectivity and emotional stability. Children will naturally receive all of the sensory stimulation needed to help with development.
Resource 1: Tree-Filled Forest Immersion Preschool