I hate it when I don’t take my own advice with the kids, especially when it involves one of my “soapboxes”. This is one of those instances. Professionally, I receive numerous requests to consult with parents and teachers regarding behavior and academic problems in children. Over the past decade I’ve observed hundreds of classrooms in many different schools. I often find myself fidgeting while observing lengthy lectures in elementary classrooms and think to myself, “I can’t sit still this long, why are KIDS expected to do so?!?!” For behavior problems (e.g. off task behavior, verbal or physical aggression, fidgeting) I always recommend additional opportunities for sensory motor activity. I’ve advocated for hyperactive children to get additional recess, or at least extra opportunities to move during their day.
When school staff uses removal of recess as a consequence I’ve encouraged them to at least consider what I dubbed “alternative recess” where the child is not permitted to use the playground, but instead can exercise, run laps, walk the perimeter of the playground, etc. to avoid making them sit still. When teachers are told they cannot provide more than 15 minutes of recess per day, but struggle with behavior problems, I encourage them to sneak physical activity into their lessons. Some teachers take breaks between lesson and lead in classroom exercises while others take the class outdoors for lessons. In order for children to be ready and able to attend and follow directions, they require adequate physical activity. This year I cringed as I overheard a kindergarten teacher announce “You won’t get recess tomorrow if you are hyper like this again! You can’t handle recess.” and when another teacher opted for indoor recess because it was “too cold” (it was about 50 degrees and sunny). Kids are not equipped to remain still and quiet indoors for long periods of time, and there are ramifications when adults expect it.
During the heat of the summer, I took the kids for walks around the neighborhood and we played in the front or back yard at least once per day if not more. If it was miserably hot, we used water to keep things comfortable, or ate cold snacks like watermelon and popsicles. Sometime around October I mentally thought it was too late in the season to do water play and put all the water toys away, but it was still HOT here. There was less daylight at that time too and the rain came. It must’ve been about that time of year that we stopped playing outside daily. We got into a rut of indoor play and being quite lazy. When the holidays came, we over indulged in television.
No surprise, the kids weren’t napping well and were often cranky. DUH! They didn’t get adequate physical activity and outdoor play. Since having that “ah-ha” moment, I’ve made a conscious effort to take the kids outside to play at least once, if not twice daily. If it’s cold or damp, we dress for the weather and find few legitimate excuses to stay inside. The kids typically balk and fuss about going outside, but once they start playing they forget they wanted to stay indoors then fuss when playtime ends.
Outside, the kids have noticed shapes in the clouds, experienced static electricity, and “cooked” meals using garden harvests.
Sasha has enjoyed sunbathing again and the chicks found plenty of bugs to nosh.
Our play equipment has been enjoyed again.
The American Heart Association recommends that children two and older get at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.
One of the major reasons we moved from our old house was for a yard with ample space for play equipment, a garden, kids to run freely, and to house backyard chickens. We’ve invested quite a bit in the yard to make it a sanctuary for our family and it must be used every single day. Since getting back outdoors, the kid’s behavior has improved. They sleep better, are in better moods, are using their imaginations, and are learning. I’m reaping these benefits and so are the furry and feathered members of our family. Outdoor time serves us well! Sometimes it takes a little effort to get kids dressed for outdoor play, but it’s always worthwhile.
- A therapist goes to middle school and tries to sit still and focus. She can’t. Neither can the kids.
- Why so many kids can’t sit still in school
- Want kids to listen more, fidget less? Try more recess. This school did.
- Researchers Warn, Kids Don’t Get Enough Outdoor Playtime
- Energy Out: Daily Physical Activity Recommendations
- Too Many Kids Spent Too Little Time Outdoors
8 thoughts on “Outdoor Play, Everyday!”
Oooh I love this! I really love the idea of playing outside every day but find it so hard to take the boys out or want to take them out when it’s cold! How I miss the summer! Lately we’ve been experiencing temperatures in the 20s and 30s are expecting a blizzard but I know it’s soooo important to allow them that outside time! It makes all the difference.
I miss summer too….I’d take the triple digits over cold and precipitation any day. Today the kids were extremely cranky and it was cold/ drizzly. I took my own advice and dressed them for wet weather. They fussed, BUT then had fun jumping in puddles and all four took a nap. Then after nap, they asked to go out again! We obviously don’t stay out as long if the weather isn’t great, but even 15-20 minutes helps with mood. Sometimes we will play in the garage with the cars pulled out if it’s just too yucky outside.
When not at home with my twins I work in outdoor education an with Forest Schools with children, since it got cold and my two turned two I am finding it increasingly hard to take my own advice also and get outside. All the layers take me 40 minutes to pile on (with them taking them off faster and the tantrums, I know you must understand this!!!) and it really takes a lot of encouragement for them to start enjoying it. Yesterday we went to the woods which on good weeks we visit 3 times per week, they took some encouragement and going back for the buggy was requested several times but once they started getting muddy and walking in frozen puddles it was forgotten, they enjoyed it so much I had to encourage them to go back home for a nap. We have hibernated some days and consequently their mood has changed and sleep issues have arisen. Thank you for reminding me that I need to trust my instincts that outside while harder work for me is best, however roll on warmer weather!!!
You’re welcome! It was cold and rainy yesterday, but I bundled the kids and sent them out. They had such fun they wanted to go out again after nap. Stay warm, and enjoy the great outdoors. 🙂
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This was a really interesting post. I just recently started noticing a difference in my four-year-old son’s behavior on days he has not been able to go outside. At his daycare, I think the cut-off for playing outside is kind of subjective as far as temperature (if it is sunny but cold, they might still go out) (we live in SC, so “cold” is like 45…), but we have had days and days of drizzly never-ending rain, and they definitely don’t take them out on the playground on those days. It definitely seems like I get more reports from his teacher about time-outs, inappropriate loudness, etc. on those yucky, rainy days they have not been able to go outside.
And this reminds me that I need to make a better effort on the weekends too! Yesterday, a Saturday, was gorgeous, and we played outside multiple times, and we had two happy kids at dinnertime.
It sounds like your climate is actually somewhat similar to ours in Texas. Many people consider 40-50’s too cold to go outside, but kids really need that outdoor play. Besides, that’s what outerwear is for. So glad you were able to enjoy the pretty weather! We’ve been having spring like weather the past few days too, and have been relishing it.
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