Nourish Your Children: Let Them Play Outdoors!

Looking for ways to keep your kids happy and healthy? Guest poster - and physical therapist - Renat Yaron has a suggestion for you: slow down and get outside!

Pile o' leaves = pile o' fun.

Does this sound like you?

I'm so stressed and I've got no time… Julie has school, then ballet, then French class...then we have to rush home and eat dinner so that we can go over her flash cards before bed.  This is all so overwhelming and Julie is only two years old!

What happened to unstructured, fun, imaginative, outdoor play?

We live in a competitive society where education and achievement are valued above much else.  Parents feel pressure to make sure that their child does not fall behind; computers are capable of doing everything for us these days so it’s actually possible to never leave the house; and safety has become more of a concern. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children require unstructured play to help them reach cognitive, physical, social, and emotional milestones. 
I’m a pediatric physical therapist in NYC – I’ve seen children who are enrolled in a ton of classes but have a difficult time negotiating playground equipment because they just aren’t exposed to it often enough.

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as the right of every child.  
United Nations?  Human rights?  You must be thinking of underdeveloped countries and sweat shops – but it has become a problem here in the U.S. with parents overbooking their children’s day so much that free play becomes obsolete.  Even play dates are arranged through classes or gyms where kids are told what to do and how to play; parents pay lots of $$ for birthday parties where kids are ushered from one activity to the next.

The CDC reports that approximately 12.5 million children in the US aged 2-19 are obese; that is triple the rate of one generation ago. 
Of course this has lots to do with economics and poor eating habits, but equally as much to do with sedentary lifestyles.

The tried and true method to foster your child’s ability to work in groups, resolve conflicts, discover interests, practice decision-making skills and more is … PLAY!  The good, old-fashioned let your kid run outside, find some friends and pretend kind of play. Kids instinctively know how to PLAY!!  Watch them, they will do it.  

One of the most helpful parenting tips I got was from The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Basically: kids are like a bag of mixed seeds.  We need to care for them and nourish them and stand back to watch them grow and develop into whatever they may be. One way to nourish them? Let them PLAY. OUTSIDE.
The author's daughter, a literal treehugger.

What were your favorite outdoor games when you were a kid?

About the author:
Renat Yaron, MSPT, has worked as a physical therapist for over 11 years in orthopedic, pediatric, and pregnancy physical therapy, and is certified in infant massage. She enjoys traveling, holds a black belt in Seido karate and dabbles in belly dancing.  These days, she is most passionate about her two little girls.


  1. I think my elementary school had grass at under maybe one of their monkey bars, but we also had a "blacktop" with monkey bars, too. Lots of skinned knees...

  2. Oh yeah. When I lived in Greenfield, we had the same problem... So boring!

  3. The playground is a total panacea! We still go to the playground here, but they are much more hoppin' in the city. The playgrounds in the 'burbs are usually pretty empty :-(

  4. And if your playgrounds were anything like ours, there was just concrete underneath you when you were hanging, am I right? 

  5. Monkey bars. I used to love to hang upside down on monkey bars or anything that could serve as a place to hook my knees. And I also loved to swing upside down from my knees and then flip off the bar to do what I called a "penny-drop." Ah, memories!

  6. right?!? although "Red Light, Green Light, 1, 2, 3" was always too subjective for my taste...

  7. And my favorite games when I was little? I don't even know... my mom just kicked us out of the house and we ran around like nuts, either in the backyard or down the street in a cul-de-sac with the neighbor kids. We had a life-size playhouse in our yard that my grandfather built for us. we had a big log pile, and we used to flip the logs over to see the bugs. we had one of those metal climbing cages and a swing set. we were set. 

  8. Great post, Renat! On days when I am so tired and I can't seem to get anything done around the house and the kids are going nuts, the cure is ALWAYS to go to the playground. That is one of the great things about Riverdale--all the playgrounds. An awesome organization that helps to build playgrounds in areas with a dearth of them is KaBoom. Check it out!

  9. Red light, green light ...1,2,3!!! Red rover, red rover send Flannery over. Chasing rats in Riverside Park. All good stuff!  Glad we couldn't afford Atari!!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts