Yes, there is an event called the Worldwide Day of Play. This annual event was initiated by none other than the Nickelodeon TV channel in October of 2004. For 2010 it’s held this Saturday, the 25th of October. Nickelodeon programming goes off the air from noon till 3pm, as a means to get kids to play – read the press release. This is a great positive way to start kids on a healthier lifestyle.
Too many kids are encumbered with things that distract them from play, including the TV and electronic screens of all kinds. Dr. Joe Frost, Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus, University of Texas, says “The consequences of play deprivation are profound — a growing crisis that threatens children’s health, fitness, and development. As free, outdoor play declines, fitness levels decline, waistlines expand, and a host of health problems follow, including obesity, heart disease, rickets, and a spiraling upturn in emotional and social disorders.” A stark warning indeed, with enough negative results that we should all work to avoid depriving children of play.
So what can be done to encourage play and fend off the deprivation? Here’s some suggestions to get you started, but also, be creative and add your own.
- As Nickelodeon suggests, turn off the TV, and not just for a few hours, for entire days and weeks.
- Limit other electronic screen time. When our kids were smaller, we kept a chart of outside play time and reading time. Those two activities earned them screen time.
- Be an adult example – play outside with your children instead of updating that facebook page.
- Walk or bike with the kids to do short errands instead of using the car. Just make sure there is a safe, low traffic, route to get you there and back.
- Don’t let the rain stop your kids from playing outside. Our kids were encouraged to put on swimsuits and play in the rain. In fact the harder it rained, the more fun they had! (Rain yes, thunder and lightning NO.)
- Play inside the house is important too. Your house shouldn’t be identified as the place where we do stuff with electronic screens. Make sure you have a supply of games, puzzles, and toys with high play value – the ones that they will play with over and over without getting bored.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. By being clever and creative, you can find all kinds of ways to promote play in your family.