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Tag Archives: research

Supervision. Barrier to Kids Playing Outside?

Awhile back The Heritage Council published the results of a survey that examines the differences in playing outdoors between generations. Parents were asked where they played when they were children and where their children (ages 7-11) now play. Although playing at home, in a friend’s home indoors, the garden and the school playground are still the most popular locations for playing across the generations, it’s no surprise that there were decreases in the number of kids who played in fields, wild spaces and the woods.

I was however a little surprised at first when “supervision” emerged as the number one barrier to children playing and experiencing the outdoors.

This is something I’ve thought about quite a bit in relation to how I was raised compared to how I’m raising my own kids. I feel like I ran wild (to which I will be forever grateful to my Mother), and although I want my kids to have the same experiences I did, I’m just not sure I’ll be comfortable with the same level of supervision my Mom was.

To make my point let me dissect the first paragraph in my About Me page.

  • I grew up in Southern Utah.
    My kids were, until recently, growing up in a gated community, in the biggest little city in the world, Reno Nevada. (more…)

How do you “structure” unstructured play?

If you haven’t noticed, unstructured play is pretty en vogue these days.  Articles touting its importance, experts saying kids need more, that it’s becoming a lost art form, that without it your child may become a criminal—articles leaving you awake at night wondering a) what the heck unstructured play is and b) if you’re a terrible person because you haven’t scheduled it in to tomorrow’s agenda.  Ugh.

Never fear.  Unstructured play is just a new phrase for something very old.  Something that animals do, and that kids naturally tend towards in every activity.  For example, remember when they were two, and could be entertained with an empty Kleenex box and a gum wrapper?  When they used shoes as telephones?  Remember the last time you set them down to chutes and ladders and came back to find them using the board, upside down, as a slide and the pieces as a marching band?  That, my friends, is unstructured play—activities that are steeped in imagination and creation; activities that downplay agendas and end-goals.  Unstructured play is when no one is looking towards the finish line.  It is the zen-moment of free time.  And what’s more, all it requires are the natural gift every child has:  an imagination.

Why is unstructured play so great? Because it promotes exploration, creativity and independent thinking.  What’s more, it gives you, the over-burdened parent, a little break.  Leave them be and let them figure out what to do with a half an hour.

Easy. Right? Ummm… no.  At least not for me and my brood.  There are so many other factors that go in to getting a child to conjure up an interesting and attention-capturing activity all by themselves.  Assuming that I’m not the only one with issues in this realm, I hereby dedicate the rest of this post to how to achieve those unstructured moments.

How do you de-structure your kids playtime?  You fight the urge to entertain.  You turn off the t.v., the playstation, the wii, and the ipod.  You leave them with materials and let them create their own fun.  They’ll be bored to start with, but out of desperation, they’ll figure it out–this is especially true if you’ve got several children of the right age–they’ll feed off each other.

Here are, in my experience, the most common obstacles for children left to their own devices, and the methods that I have dreamed up for dealing with them.  I very much look forward to hearing from readers who have also tried to incorporate undirected playtime into their child’s daily routine! (more…)

Teach Anticipation and Foresight. Plan a Hike.

I just read this fascinating article in Psychology Today that talked about what skills the current generation will need in order to be successful by the time they’re old enough to hold down a job.  The author points out that the model for our current education system was invented over a hundred years ago—when telephones were just being invented, refrigerators were blocks of ice, and television was pure science fiction.  In other words, during a time that today’s children absolutely cannot comprehend.  More importantly, the goals of education differed significantly a hundred years ago.  Today (as the author says):

“The best jobs will go to applicants who have the skillsets to analyze information as it becomes available, the flexibility to adapt when what were believed to be facts are revised, and to collaborate with other experts on a global playing field requiring tolerance, willingness to consider alternative perspectives, and articulately communicate one’s ideas successfully.”

How do we prepare our children for this future?  The author suggests encouraging activities that teach “predicting, planning, revising, and accountability”.

Here’s an idea: let your child plan the next hike. (more…)

How Sunlight Affects Health

When the days grow shorter and darker, do you find yourself feeling blue? You’re not alone – and there are scientific reasons for that negative frame of mind. Studies show exposure to natural daylight can positively affect your mood, your alertness, and your overall health

This is from a great article by the National Wildlife Federation. We’ve all been there right? What I like most about the article is that it actually presents solutions to beating the winter blues! Check it out.

  • WELCOME

    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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