Hey kids: Put down the video games and get outside this summer

It's that time of year again – kids are looking forward to the end of the school year, while parents are looking forward to the start of summer camp.

If your kid goes to camp in New York, it's likely he won't be playing kickball, freeze tag or Wiffle ball. The state has added the three childhood games to its list of risky activities. This means that if a camp offers these activities, the camp will have to provide medical staff and pay a $200 fee to register as a summer camp. 


Gone are the days when a kid could just be a kid…wander around the neighborhood, playing kickball or riding his bike, without a care in the world. These days, kids are concerned with being stalked by child molesters or getting a life-threatening injury while playing freeze tag. Today's average kid spends more than six hours a day watching television, playing video games or operating a computer. The amount of time a child spends outdoors has declined by 50 percent in the past 20 years. 

Instead of worrying so much about what might happen to a kid, why not try saying those four magic words – go outside and play – four words not heard a lot today.

What will happen to our children if they grow up only knowing and understanding the world by their virtual experiences? What will the world be like if our children become adults with no connection to the outdoors or to their own inner child?

Outdoor physical activity is good for a child's health – it keeps his lungs healthy, and is good for his growing bones and his heart. It helps a child develop a love of nature, a sense of stewardship and responsibility for other living creatures. Not to mention that it's just fun to play outside on a summer day!

Parents have legitimate concerns with allowing their children to go outside and play – many don't feel it's safe and they don't have the time to supervise them. Concerns about children playing outdoors unsupervised are real. But there are other ways you can engage your child in outdoor play, including community and volunteer projects, group activities and family outings. 

Children learn by example, so it is a good idea for parents to lead by example. Families need to spend time together doing healthy activities outdoors. Disconnect from the television and computer and video games and make a commitment together to get outside for a few hours each week.

This is one of the greatest investments you can make in your child's future. Activities and time spent outdoors will forever have an impact on who your child is today and the kind of adult he will become.

Published Wednesday, April 20, 2011 11:08 AM by bulldog
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