Children Need Open-Ended Play: A roundup of recent links

I just came across this article in the NYT Health and Fitness blog about the play deprivation facing today's youth.  Amazingly, the article reports that children spend an average of 7 1/2 hours hours in front of a screen per day (what?!?).  

And, well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  My professional mentor Rachel has linked up this list of PBS shows that are of higher quality than the average show.  Zoom in to read the article that is linked.  I have to admit, our 9-year-old nephew stayed with us during the holiday break and when he woke up before I was ready to make breakfast, I would automatically turn on the TV so I could go back to bed. 


This article on outdoor play addresses the advantages of playing outdoors (like we did when we were kids, remember?).  Beansprouts kids get lots of outdoor play during the week (about 2-3 hours per day during the winter,  3-4 during the other season!).

I'm amazed at how the kids convene with nature in our humble little backyard.  They dig in dirt, collect natural objects like stones and sticks, they find puddles and worms and bugs, they listen to birds and watch squirrels scurry by.  They find the oldest and dirtiest objects in the yard and have the most fun with them. 

Of course, a most exciting part of our outdoor time is seeing the occasional airplane or garbage truck, or watching the neighbors' gardeners work on the lawn, or seeing Roger come to collect landscaping equipment from our garage.  Other advantages to outdoor play:
  • Walking barefoot over bumpy outdoor terrain puts pressure on nerve receptors in the feet that stimulate the brain and organs.  
  • Fresh air is important especially during winter months where airborne germs hover generously in the classroom.  
  • Sunlight allows the body to produce vitamin D.  
  • Space, glorious space, is abundant in the yard.
  • There is maximum opportunity for open-ended play outside, as most objects are functional (like buckets, shovels, bikes, climbers) but there aren't very many pre-scripted toys (the most scripted toys would be the construction vehicles in the sandbox).
  • Getting messy in the yard is just not a big deal.  Being covered in paint inside could get a little inconvenient for the teachers.

Last up, if you get a chance, check out this article from my friend Annie over at Explorer Preschool.  She speaks to the importance of open-ended toys versus, as an example, battery-operated toys that "do most of the playing FOR the child".

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