Playing outside is a huge tradition in almost every child and adolescent’s life. It’s where social skills are formed, friendships are forged, pretend wars are fought, where creativity is incited. You probably have a lot of fond memories of playing outside from when you were a child. You and the neighborhood gang playing pretend- maybe pirates, indians, princesses, red-rover, tag or one of the many varieties of childhood play-time activities available in the great outdoors. But the memories you hold so dearly in your heart might not extend to your progeny. Over the last 50 years, playtime has been limited and limited to the point that it is now- almost nonexistent. And while a myriad of reasons have brought this conundrum about- increased academic standards, decreased feelings of public safety and more, there are colossal health and social risks attributed to this change.
A recent article in the American Journal of Play talks about how much children’s play time has declined and how this paucity of play affects emotional development, leading to higher levels of neurotic behavior in children.
You may have noticed rates of depression, anxiety and ADD (both with hyperactivity and without) are on the rise, but did you think to link the increase to decreased outdoor play?
Well Peter Gray, who has a PhD and is a professor of psychology at Boston College, did think to link the societal conundrum with a lack of what he calls “free play.” Free play is, to Gray, when children play outdoors in an unsupervised or at least, uninstructed, manner. In this way, kids are free to use their imagination and interact with other children. The interaction and bonding that occurs during this time is absolutely instrumental in creating social instinct and experience in children, thus giving them the confidence and the competence to grow into successful adults.
Unfortunately kids nowadays are not experiencing this same level of confidence as a result of parents being more involved and limited the autonomy children can experience. Parents want to be involved for good reasons, so the paradigm is ultra tricky. Few people have the previously held notion that you can trust strangers and subsequently, that kids can, and should play outside until dark. You just want to keep your kids safe and also know that where/how they are playing meets your standards. This is especially true on playgrounds. A lot of times you don’t know the structural integrity of a playground and this could certainly give rise to parental anxiety and subsequent inhibition of free play. Whenever you know a playground has been built by using ProTechs surfacing, you can rest assured that the playground is safe and up to your quality standards you have set forth for your child. This will increase the amount of time you let your child play outside and the more time they play outside, the less at risk they will be for neurotic ailments such as depression, anxiety and ADD.