"Go outside and play," was once a very common phrase used in America, but those days have gone. In today's society, children spend 50% less time outside than they did just 20 years ago. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids are spending 6.5 hours a day with electronic media -- making the sofa or desk chair their favorite place "to play."
This new American childhood is taking its toll on the health, well-being, and happiness of our children. Play is essential to the proper development, socialization, and physical, emotional, and mental health of children. Without ample time for play, all of these areas are negatively impacted.
5 ways lack of play is impacting today's children:
1) Children are more overweight than ever, and research shows they are actually gaining weight over summer break (Von Hippel 2007). The number of overweight children has doubled in the last 20 years, while the number of over-weight teens has tripled (CDC, 2006).
2) The CDC also reports that 4.5 million children (5-17) have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and many are on a variety of medications to control this condition.
3) The diagnoses of depression and anxiety disorders are also on the raise, as is the pharmaceutical treatment of children for these disorders.
4) Classroom behavior problems including violence, emotional outbursts, and lack of ability to interact with peers and authority figures are a growing issue. Today's teachers must spend more and more time on classroom management, and less time actually teaching.
5) Without ample play, we will continue to see a decrease in creativity and imagination, as well vital skills including problem solving, social skills, the ability to assess risk, and resiliency. All of these not only help prepare children to learn more effectively in school, but help prepare them for a successful adulthood.
Have you noticed the shift? The First Lady has.
There are just too many kids that are living a life off of high-calorie food and they're not getting enough exercise. And in order to stay healthy, children are supposed to get 60 minutes of activity every single day. Now, how many kids in your lives are doing that these days, at least 60 minutes every single day?
-- First Lady, Michelle Obama
Ask yourself the same question? Are your kids getting outside and playing for at least 60 minutes a day? How about you?
5 tips to help restore play in your family's life:
1) Set limits for screen time. Whether it's TV, video games, or computer time - 6.5 hours is too long for kids to be sitting down in front of a screen.
2) Find a favorite playground, park, or natural area and adopt it as your family fun spot.
3) Reduce the number of structured activities your kids are signed up for. Kids need time to be kids -- to play, make friends, relax, and have fun. Putting kids in too many adult-led programs robs them of the opportunity to make their own fun and play by their own rules.
4) Model appropriate behavior. You can't tell your kids to go outside and play if you don't! Take a break. Have some fun, and make sure you balance your work life with real life.
5) Celebrate play! Reconnect with your kid-at-heart and join the movement to bring play back to the American landscape and help restore the health of our children.
Visit KaBOOM! and plan a Play Day for your community the week of September 19-27th.
A KaBOOM! Play Day is a free, fun-for-the-whole-family outdoor event that celebrates play. It's a day to gather at your favorite park or playground and reconnect with your community. When you sign-up, you'll get a free KaBOOM! Play Day Kit (valued at $100), tips, templates and much more in our Online Planner.
Join thousands of people as they run, laugh, and jump for joy in communities across the country. Come on America, it's time to get your play on. Trust me: it's just what the doctor ordered.
Follow Darell Hammond on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kaboom