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Keeping Kids Healthy On The Playground

Playtime is time for children to have fun and is generally something that most kids look forward to. Today's children, however, often look to television, video games, and other electronic media as a way of entertaining themselves and interacting with their friends. As interest in these types of activities increase, children are spending less time outdoors and are consequently becoming more sedentary and less active. This can become a problem that has a lifelong effect on the child's behavior and physical health. Although there are some positive aspects of video game play, such as improved hand-eye coordination, it should not become a substitute for getting outside and participating in active outdoor play.

Why You Should Go Outside

Every day, parents and guardians should encourage their children to get active. Even parents of toddlers and smaller children should regularly take them outdoors and allow them to play in the sun and open air. Daily time outside is a great way for kids to have fun and interact with siblings and/or friends. Additionally, it is also a good way for kids to socialize with children in the neighborhood and make new friends. There are numerous activities that kids can enjoy during their time outdoors, even if there are no other children for them to play with.

How a child plays is partly dependent on the age of the child. Common outdoor activities such as bicycling are great for kids who are old enough to learn, and it is an activity that the entire family can participate in and enjoy together. Classic games, such as hopscotch and jumping rope, are great fun for most children and are often easy to learn. Outdoor activities for toddlers are typically more simplistic and don't require a set of rules to follow. Generally, toddlers can easily have fun playing with and tossing a ball, or just jumping in puddles of water after a rain.

The warmer months, particularly the summer months, are a great time for kids to get out of the house and play in the sun. There are a number of fun pool games like "Fishy in the Middle" for kids who have access to a pool. Even when there isn't a pool available, kids can have fun playing in water. With the use of tarp and a water hose, for example, kids can slip and slide right on their front or back lawn. Even something as simple as an outdoor sprinkler can encourage the imaginations of children and create hours of fun. Water balloon races are also fun when there are groups of four kids or more. Whenever there are a number of kids playing, regardless of whether it is the summer, spring, or fall, group games are a good way to keep them active, outside, and enjoying themselves. A well-planned out and supervised nature scavenger hunt or a game of tag are ideas of group activities for kids as well. Work with your family to find the best and most varied schedule of physical activities.

Health Benefits of Playing Outdoors

In addition to having fun, there are numerous benefits associated with playing outside in terms of emotional and physical health. The increase in exercise and physical exertion reduces child obesity by encouraging weight loss in children that are overweight. In general, the increase in activity helps keep kids from becoming overweight in the first place. According to the American Heart Association and the Center for Disease Control, children should participate in a minimum of sixty minutes of physical exercise daily. As a result, not only is weight controlled, but kids will benefit from a reduced risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. When children jump, run and perform other high impact activities as a part of their play, they are also building stronger bones and encouraging muscle growth. Playing outside also increases a child's production of Vitamin D. Additionally, regular exposure to nature and the bacteria found within helps to strengthen children's immune systems. As a result, they are less likely to develop allergies and certain autoimmune diseases. Studies have also shown that children who participate in more outdoor activities versus indoor activities tend to have better vision and are less likely to be nearsighted. In terms of emotional health, outdoor play often results in children who are happier. It encourages a sense of pride and confidence, particularly when a child is able to successfully learn and perform a new activity such as riding a bike. Stress, which can be the cause of a numerous health problems, is also decreased by outdoor playtime. As many children suffer from diseases that crop up from being inactive, it is important not only to prevent problems in childhood, but to start good habits that will carry children through their lives!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart