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With the weather being so beautiful this time of year are you and your family heading outdoors more? Do you hear more children riding their bikes in the streets and exploring the trails?
In most areas of the country, the answer would be ‘no’. More and more children are moving less throughout the day as compared to children 30 years ago. Children are sitting longer in school and recess times have shortened or completely been eliminated due to increased educational demands. Children rarely play outdoors possibly due to parental fears, liability issues, and hectic schedules of our modern-day society. Children simply are not moving enough.
Research from neurologists at the University of Illinois tells us that physical activity is essential for healthy brain development. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that free play is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play, according to an Occupational Therapist, is the single “job” of childhood. Play helps children navigate their environment, work through social conflicts, and move their body while engaging their sensory systems.
Ironically, many children are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular (balance) system today—due to restricted movement. In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time. Just like with exercising, they need to do this more than just once a week in order to reap the benefits. Therefore, having a soccer practice once or twice a week is likely not enough movement for the child to develop a strong sensory system.
There are several ways to help promote free play and physical activity in our children:
- It is recommended that all children are afforded ample, unscheduled, independent, non-screentime to be creative, to reflect and to decompress. Although parents can certainly monitor play for safety, a large proportion of play should be child driven rather than adult directed.
- Parents should decrease use of passive entertainment (ie, t.v., video games, computer & phone)
- Ditch the electronic toys for younger children and replace them with traditional blocks, crayons & wooden toys, which allow a child to improve their cognitive skills & imagination.
- Get outside! Go for a family hike, bike ride, or walk through our amazing trail systems.