Ahh, summer. It brings back so many good memories and warm feelings! Time to go outside! We welcome this glorious season with open arms. We remember our childhood summers and think about going outside with bare feet, running through sprinklers to cool off and playing outside for hours with friends until dusk when we were called in for dinner. Today, as I drive around my bucolic neighborhood I notice there is a strange quiet. The trees are green, the flowers are in bloom and it’s really quiet. Where are the children? Where do the children play?
Our world is moving at mach speed and it’s a speed that is too fast for the developing child. Children learn through physical experience and their senses are working overtime. Their sense of touch, taste, smell, hearing, seeing and movement are all being fed when they play outside. We have all read about about the changes that technology is bringing to our world. Technology has it’s place but it’s not teaching children how to use their bodies for play. We can slow it down for our children. We have the power to do it. Let’s use this upcoming summer season to turn back the clock, leave the IPADs behind and let your children take advantage of the beautiful weather.
My new favorite book, Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom, describes the benefits of playing outside. She is a pediatric occupational therapist (and mother of three) who founded TimberNook, an international nature-based program for children. Here are a few highlights. Hanscom encourages outdoor active free play without a schedule to engage the body and the brain. Unstructured play allows for imagination where children design their own stories and “rules” all that build the foundation for compromising and working with others.
By playing outdoors our children will develop competence, ignite the senses, build strong muscles, improve endurance, get the brain working, reduce stress, improve behavior, learn social skills, develop 'street smarts' and build confidence. There is no “app” for all that.
Let’s get outside with our kids and do some hiking, biking, climbing, swinging, digging, wading, building, sliding, spinning, fishing, swimming, running, rolling and crawling. The possibilities are endless. You’ll be glad that you did and so will your kids. The lasting memories your children will have are priceless!
Here are some of my favorite toys for outdoor play:
Barbara Greenspan, MS, OTR has been an occupational therapist for over 30 years. She's worked in world-renowned hospitals in New York City. For the past 15 years, she has worked primarily with children in Fairfield County, Connecticut in her private practice. Barbara also teaches at the university level occupational therapy program and lectures at local Connecticut preschools groups on the subjects of child development, sensory integration and development of handwriting skills. As a passionate cyclist, she works with the local Parks and Recreation Department teaching bike riding skills to children with special needs. Barbara is a parent of two children and resides in Westport, Connecticut.