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Set guidelines and give them freedom
Should we let our kids play outside?
Member Name: lellagrace
Should we let our kids play outside?
Advantages: Part of growing up
Disadvantages: Dangers lurk
Should we let our kids play outside? Well of course we should, but with supervision of course. Kids need to get out into the fresh air, they need exercise, they need a certain amount of freedom to run around and have fun. But of course as parents/carers this brings worries and concerns as to their safety.
WHERE ARE ALL THE KIDS?
I live on a fairly new housing development, with many young families. It is now the school holidays, there is a play area on the estate but where are the kids? Are they all playing in their own back gardens like we did when we were kids? Or are they away on holiday? I have to say that the answer is perhaps some are away, but the rest are probably being looked after by childminders or grandparents while their parents are out at work. As I write this on a bright sunny morning, there are no children around at all! I find this quite sad as the children are not learning to appreciate how to spend leisure time outside their own homes. How are they going to get to know other kids who live nearby if they are all inside or away?
This lack of children, who live here,playing out on a nice sunny day like today seems such a shame. The play area is well equipped with a slide and basketball and other things, but there are no kids around. I loved to hear the shouts and laughter of my own children playing out. They always had a group of friends in the garden, or were at their friends' houses. On the days we had to go out there were tears and tantrums because they wanted to play out! It was the same at bedtime when they had to come in and they were eager to get up in the morning so they could play out. Neighbourhood children would knock on the door and ask "Is ..... playing out?"
Of course I was lucky in that my job allowed me to be at home with them, I know everyone isn't as fortunate and have no option but to let their kids be looked after elsewhere.
TOO MUCH TIME INSIDE
How sad that this is not so commonplace now. I know only too well that many of today's children spend too much time indoors watching tv or playing their electronic games. Maybe they have never learnt how to play outside and amuse themselves?
LEARN TO PLAY
When I was in Japan several years ago and visiting primary schools, on the agenda was "Children's play". I thought this was a play the kids were performing. How wrong I was! At the allotted time, the children were assembled and taken outside where they played traditional games such as skipping, ball games etc. This happened on a weekly basis as part of the curriculum. The Japanese had realised that too many kids were spending time indoors with their electronic games and tv etc and were not learning how to play in the old fashioned sense. If the weather was too bad to play outside, they spent time indoors learning how to play marbles, for example, and how to use string to make cat's cradle.
Do our children actually know how to amuse themselves anymore? Do kids yearn to play outside? Or have they become so used to spending time indoors that they have become socially isolated?
LONG SUMMER HOLIDAYS
I remember the long summer holidays when I was a kid. I know the community was probably safer in those days, but we were still warned about the dangers of "bad men". I was brought up on a similar housing development to where I live now, there were lots of kids around and we looked forward to playing out. If some mothers had to go out to work, others would look after us.
Maybe it was a bike ride we went on, not far, and we knew what time to be back. No mobile phones in those days. I am sure our parents worried about us, but kids need some freedom to go out on their own.
I am not suggesting that young children should be allowed to play outside unsupervised. They could play in the garden if you have one. Or if not, take them to the local park. Take a book with you and sit on a seat where you can watch them. Take other children with you or invite them to play in your garden so they have friends around.
We hear so much about childhood obesity these days. We take our children everywhere in the car, when do they get any freedom to explore on their own?
To a child being allowed to walk down the street to a friend's house may seem a long way to them, when in actual fact it is only yards to us. But at least they are outside and getting some exercise.
Introduce the children to old fashioned games. Chalk out a hopscotch on the patio. Use the patio as a play area, not just as a place to sit and have a bbq. The chalk will wash off and you will know the kids are having fun. Forget about the lawn being a prized attraction, make it fun filled by setting up a goalpost for them to play football.
If you do allow them to play ball in the garden, do make sure this doesn't annoy the neighbours. The little boy who lives next to me is only around at weekends and evenings (he goes to a childminder at other times). It is wonderful to hear him having fun as he kicks his football around and occasionally it comes over the fence and I throw it back.
I remember only too well when I was that age and if the ball went into our neighbour's garden (she was the local headteacher), she refused to give it back. I didn't believe people today were like that, but only the other day another neighbour complained that the little boy had kicked his football over the fence and it had ended up in the dustbin!!! How petty! With attitudes like this from neighbours is it any wonder kids don't play out like they used to do!
Personally, I enjoy seeing kids develop through play. They are having fun, playing nicely together one minute, squabbling the next. They stomp inside, plonk themselves down on the sofa, arms folded, sulking stating firmly they are never going to speak to their friend again. Give them ten minutes and they will be off outside and you would never know they had been arguing!
That is a part of being a child, just as allowing them to play out is a part of childhood, part of growing up.
As long as children are made aware of the dangers, without scaring them too much, and are given guidelines as to where they are allowed to go and what time to be back, I don't think playing out is too much of a problem. Make sure they know not to talk to strangers, keep away from water, keep together etc.
ENJOY THE SUMMER
If your child does have to go to a childminder or carer for the holidays, find out if they are given time to just "do their own thing." These days it is too easy to think children need organised activities to keep them occupied. Don't forget they need some time for "relaxation and recreation" too. Herding them together on numerous outings or enforced activities can be tiring. Just alowing them to play outside for a few hours in their home environment each week will do them the world of good!
Summary: With proper supervision children should be allowed to play outside