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Get Outside and Play!

When I was a little girl, I had a delightful childhood. I was fortunate to live on a dead-end dirt road where I could spend the entire day exploring and playing; I suppose you could have called me a free-range child.

With local neighborhood friends, I built forts in the woods behind my house, swam in a creek while catching minnows and crayfish. We played freeze tag, red rover, TV tag, rode our bikes up to the corner store and later in the evening, my friends and I would coordinate neighborhood baseball games. In the winter, we were just as active – sledding, building snow forts, ice skating and of course bombarding each other with snowballs!We would get into mischief and our families were not the least bit worried about our whereabouts.  We were safe, we were free, and we were outdoors – ALL THE TIME!

As I reflect on my son’s childhood so far, I am saddened that he does not have the same opportunities that I had growing up. His childhood differs from mine dramatically; full of scheduled play dates, technology and organized sports. It made me realize that I need to be proactive about providing outdoor (structured and unstructured) opportunities for my child.

While I was researching outdoor play, I came across an article from Harvard and it caught my attention because in the very first paragraph Dr. Claire McCarthy states, “Here’s something really simple you can do to improve your child’s chance of future health and success: make sure he spends plenty of time playing outside.”

Within this article, it provided six reasons why children need to play outside:

1) Sunshine We need sun exposure to make vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a crucial role for bone development and helps our immune system; it also contributes to healthy sleep and mood.
2) Exercise Children should be active for 1 hour every day.
3) Executive Function Children need unstructured playtime to build skills that help them plan, prioritize, negotiate and multitask – being outside helps to practice these important life skills.
4) Taking Risks Risky play (i.e., climbing a tree) helps kids develop social skills, creativity, and resilience. Through risk, children learn what is safe and what is not.
5) Socialization Working together, cooperation and making friends.
6) Appreciation of Nature – Teaching children the importance of caring for the Earth; children can learn how they affect the environment as well as how the environment affects them.

Please click here for a more in-depth explanation on why these six reasons are so beneficial to children’s health and success.

As we are still in the thick of summer days, below are some outdoor activities and places you can visit to get the most of your outdoor adventures!

Visit your local:

Farmer’s Market
Metro/State Parks (biking, kayaking, hiking, swimming, fishing, picnicking, camping, ice skating)

Try a new activity:

Build a backyard bonfire
Make a scarecrow
Rake and jump in leaves
Create an outdoor scavenger/nature hunt
Water balloon play
Run through the sprinkler
Play in the sandbox
Paint some rocks/sticks
Set up an obstacle course
Dance in the rain
Catch fireflies
Guest Writer: Michelle Vlodyka, Early Childhood Consultant at Wayne RESA GSRP
Author: Wayne RESA - GSRP

Great Start Readiness Program is a Michigan state-funded preschool program for four-year-old children with factors which may place them at risk of educational failure. The program is administered by the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Great Start. Funding is allocated to Wayne RESA to administer the program locally. These blogs were developed and funded under a grant awarded by the Michigan Department of Education. Research on preschool programs and specific research on GSRP indicates that children provided with a high-quality preschool experience show significant positive developmental differences when compared to children from the same backgrounds who did not attend a high-quality preschool program.