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Mom was Right, After All: Go Outside and Play!

Celebrate Take it Outside Week October 14 – 20th  

For many of us, the phrase “Go outside and play!” has deep roots in our histories and memories. In fact, it’s almost part of our DNA. We were much more likely to spend after school playing backyard games and going on neighborhood adventures with our friends than we were to be sat in front of a television or enrolled in an after school enrichment program. We moved, created our own games and fun, and leaned to solve our own conflicts when they arose. We ran, jumped, climbed, and used our outdoor voices. In short, we were kids – in all the messy and perpetual-motion glory that should come with childhood.

But somewhere over the past 20 years that unplugged, naturally-active form of childhood has been replaced with a sedentary, overly-scheduled existence that is leaving our children unhealthy and unhappy. And sadly, we are seeing the evidence of this in America’s youngest children.

(see also LOL – Love an Outdoor Life)

Twenty-two million children under five in the United States are overweight – five million of these are obese (National Institutes of Health). At the same time, children under five are the fastest growing population using antidepressants today (Journal of Psychiatric Services). Often, media attention focuses on nutrition alone as the solution to what ails today’s children. But there is another vital part of the solution and it is really quite simple: Go outside and play!

Just like eating our greens and wearing a hat when it’s cold, it turns out our mothers were right after all. Kids who play outside are happier, healthier, and stronger! According to research (Fjortoft 2004; Burdette and Whitaker 2005), children who play outdoors regularly:

  • Become fitter and leaner
  • Develop stronger immune systems
  • Have more active imaginations
  • Have lower stress levels
  • Play more creatively
  • Have greater respect for themselves and others

With so many benefits and little to no cost, we wonder how outdoor play ever fell out of favor?! To help inspire parents, educators, day care providers, and others to get young children unplugged and outdoors daily, Head Start Body Start created Take it Outside Week in 2009. Now in its fourth year, HSBS continues to urge the early childhood community to make outdoor play and learning an integral part of young children’s daily lives.

For activity ideas, promotional resources and inspiration check out the Take it Outside Week 2012 page on the National Association for Sport and Physical Education website. Even more family friendly activities can be found on the Together Counts Enrichment Zone!

Now if you will excuse me, there are trees to be climbed and grass whistles to be blown. See ya outside!

Bethe Almeras, MS, Center Director for Head Start Body Start, wrote this post for Together Counts on behalf of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. A long time educator and play advocate, she is passionate about outdoor play and connecting children with nature. In her free time Bethe writes a blog, The Grass Stain Guru, and can often be found playing outside.

Need more ideas for getting outside? Check out these resources:

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