ParticipACTION 2015 Health Report Card

“As Dr. Mark Tremblay, the chief scientific officer of the ParticipACTION Report Card says, we have lost the balance between short-term safety and long-term health.  In outdoor play, risk doesnt mean courting danger, but rather giving kids the freedom to assess their surroundings and make decisions, allowing them to build confidence, develop skills, solve problems and learn limits.  Not only will kids move more if theyre outside, playing freely, but theyll be set up to be more resilient and less likely to develop chronic diseases in the long run.

What many adults recall from their childhood as thrilling and exciting play that tested boundaries such as exploring the woods, rough housing, moving fast or playing at heights is often called risky play these days. While these activities could lead to injuries, the vast majority are minor.”

Read the whole media release here > 

You can also download the full report from the ParticipACTION website.

Children Need Unbounded Outdoor Play

Cognoscenti contributor John Less argues his reasons for advocating why children need to play and explore outdoors.

For children, the difference between observing creatures in a zoo or aquarium and catching a tadpole or a turtle in a pond is geometric. Feeling a live and wild animal wriggle in one’s palm is a different experience from seeing specimens in a controlled environment. Returning that creature back into its habitat, and doing it safely and with compassion, is equally important and rewarding. ‘Catch and release’ is a fundamental life experience that can only be learned in nature, and it is a core value of our humanity.

Read full article here >>

Risk is essential to childhood – as are scrapes, grazes, falls and panic

The Guardian author Kate Blinco hits the nail on the head with her article discussing the value of risky play for children and why parents need to back off and let their kids get bruised.

Children need to be exposed to risky play. For ‘helicopter parents’, this might be difficult – but kids need to learn to manage danger themselves

Risk is an essential component of a balanced childhood. Exposure to healthy risk, particularly physical, enables children to experience fear, and learn the strengths and limitations of their own body. However, before you book a one-way ticket to Beachy Head for you and the toddler, or dump the iPad-loving six-year-old in the woods with just a compass, let’s think about this more carefully.

For this generation of children, shuttled from padded soft play, to school, to club, to sofa, we’ve got a lot of work to do before they come over all Bear Grylls. As parents, many of us are unaccustomed to allowing even the tiniest degree of danger to enter the lives of our children. Surely it’s the job of a good parent to keep them safe? That’s why roaming distance (how far children play from home)has decreased by 90% in the past 30 years.

Read the full article here >>

The Flip Flop Factor

Why Day Care Kids Don’t Play Outside

Article originally published by the New York Times

Outdoor play at day care centers is often stifled because a child arrives wearing flip-flops or without a coat or because teachers don’t feel like going outside.

Those were some of the surprising findings from a new study of children’s physical activity in day care settings. More than half of American children between the ages of 3 and 6 are in child care centers or preschools.

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center held focus groups with staff members at 34 area child care centers to learn more about how kids spend their time in day care and the reasons they may or may not spend time outside.

Many of their answers were unexpected. Day care workers keep children inside if they show up in flip-flops rather than sneakers or if they don’t have a coat on a chilly day. Sometimes, the entire class is kept indoors if one child doesn’t have appropriate clothes for outdoor play. One problem is that parents who don’t want their child going outside on a given day will intentionally keep the child’s coat so he or she will be kept indoors.

One surprising problem the researchers learned was about the mulch used to landscape playgrounds and outdoor spaces at day care centers. Staff members complained that kids eat the mulch or use it as weapons, or it gets caught in their shoes, making outdoor play troublesome for teachers.

“It’s certainly not something that we had anticipated as an issue, but judging by the amount of and intensity of the discussions among child care teachers, it really is,” said Dr. Kristen Copeland, assistant professor of pediatrics and the study’s lead author.

The feelings of teachers and parents also influenced whether children played outside. Although children learn important gross motor and social skills on the playground by learning to kick a ball or negotiate with another child for a turn on the swing, teachers said they felt pressure from some parents who were more concerned with children spending time on academic skills like reading and writing.

Some workers said outdoor play is too much trouble because it requires time to bundle up kids during cold weather. Other staff members just said they didn’t like going outside.

“Finding out what the barriers are is the first step in addressing the problem and getting more kids involved in more much-needed physical activity,” Dr. Copeland said.

The research, which was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, was presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Honolulu.

Charter For Children’s Play

Children play best:

When adults are watchful but not intrusive, when safe ground lends courage to their discoveries and adventures.

When their trust in life is whole, when they welcome the unknown and are fearless.

When the world is shared with them. When there are places and spaces they can make their own.

When their games are free from adult agendas and when their transformations require no end-product.

When their senses are directly engaged with Nature and the elements.

When they are free to become gatherers, makers and world creators in their own time and in their own ways.

When they play with others and make relationships.

When they can play alone, be solitary and private.

When they can become new selves through their play with others and in their own imaginings.

When they can reveal themselves, their joys, sufferings, and concerns without fear of ridicule and when mystery and imagination are not denied by fact.