go outside and play

Memories of when I would “go outside and play”

As a kid I was allowed to roam the neighborhood on my own by either foot or bicycle at a relatively early age. We did not have the safety net of gps tracking devices or cell phones. We had a limited area we were allowed to cover and we respected the rules.  And we didn’t wear helmets, though I admit requiring gear to protect your head makes good sense for both kids and adults.

Most of the time, we played kickball in the street right in front of my house.  Sometimes we played tag on someone’s front lawn. In those instances, we were easily visible to a parent looking out a window. Many moms I know had similar experiences. Why then do most of us not allow our kids to enjoy playing outside on their own as we did?

Do we let kids be kids?

In today’s world, parents seem extremely concerned with raising exceptional, intelligent children. What’s wrong with that? The answer is nothing, as long as you remember to provide time for your kids to be kids and to play outside. Today’s children are very scheduled. Activities seem to be organized by the parents for the most part. Some parents say that if they did not plan playdates or classes, their child would be alone most of the time. The other children are very scheduled too and planning is necessary.

Do kids need constant supervision?

Some say allowing a kid outside alone is dangerous. The media broadcasts stories of scary crimes quite often so it’s no wonder parents feel this way. The reality is we do need to be careful, and perhaps letting your children roam the neighborhood alone in today’s world isn’t wise. However, allowing them to play outside in the yard where you can see them is a different story. Remember, it’s your job as a parent to prepare your child to explore.

Kids may seem to need constant supervision, but the truth is that kids are surprisingly capable and independent if given the chance to play on their own. The key is to prepare them well to instill confidence, and to empower them with skills needed to get out of potentially difficult situations.

Preparing your child to play outside on their own

Role play interactions with strangers to rehearse what to do when confronted with possible real life encounters. Build trust with your child; your child may behave recklessly when you’re around to keep them safe, but this doesn’t mean they are not capable of acting responsibly when needed. Show them it’s OK to say “no” to going off with anyone without your permission (even if they know the individual) and where to go for help if needed. Try to instill confidence in your child without scaring them terribly; note that a little bit of fear in this case is not a bad thing.

Benefits of outdoor play

kids are naturally drawn to playing outside and the benefits are many.
1)  allows them to explore their environment
2)  increases flexibility and fine and gross motor skills
3)  helps develop muscle strength and balance
4)  encourages self-confidence
Children have a great need for physical exercise and activity and to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. Start out slowly by allowing your children to play outside by themselves or with friends for a short period of time at first. Let them play only where you can see them out the window. Gradually extend the time, and as they get older, the distance from your home.

The bottom line

I think all kids should be allowed to play outside. Let them have the opportunity to be children with some unscheduled play time in the great outdoors.. An added bonus of outdoor play is that it will keep them away from the video games and tv for awhile!

What are your thoughts? Do you let your children play outside unsupervised? Leave your comments below.


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