In 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt stated that "Play is a fundamental need...Playgrounds should be provided for every child as much as schools."
Roosevelt worked hard to make sure there were sufficient playgrounds for all children no matter what types of communities they lived in.
Unfortunately through the years, playgrounds have changed tremendously. Much of this has stemmed from safety concerns, wanting to make sure children aren't getting hurt. I challenge you to set aside the safety aspect and think about what children may be losing through this change.
Think about a playground that's in your neighborhood, at your school or your child's school. Where are the children allowed to play? Is there green space for running? Can children run on and around the playground equipment? How long before the play becomes repetitive? Are there opportunities for social interactions? Are the children challenged in this type of play environment still?
Teddy Roosevelt's words are still relevant, "Play is a fundamental need." In fact, it's not just a need for young children, but also for older children and even adults. What makes play truly enjoyable and beneficial is when it carries elements of risk, where children can test their boundaries and assess their own abilities. Likely the playground you envisioned in your neighborhood or school is lacking these aspects. If this is where the majority of children's outdoor time is spent, it's no wonder they don't want to be outside.
Now take a moment to think about the playgrounds and play spaces you enjoyed as a child. They likely had elements of risk. You likely weren't closely supervised like the children of today are; therefore, you had to figure out your own boundaries in space and work through social conflicts with your peers.
Unfortunately these changes in children's opportunities for play are not only changing how children feel about play and the outdoors, but it's impacting their long term development. If children don't have opportunities to build confidence physically through unstructured play they won't fully develop the critical thinking, balance and negotiating skills that are needed in all aspects of life.
I challenge you to think about the play spaces your children have access to. Are these spaces providing your children what they need to help develop important life skills? If not, consider how you could make adjustments in these spaces. Could you add more elements of risk to your school playground? Can you discuss with your city the possibility of additions to some of your neighborhood parks?
If you're interested in diving into this topic further join us starting July 11th for a book study on the book, Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom.