Tuesday, June 14, 2016

This Summer, Be Choosy Outside!

By: Jennifer Ripepi, MD


Aaah! The fresh air of late spring after a rain is one of my favorite smells! The chance to be outside after the cold of winter is something I always look forward to when I'm huddling under a blanket. Since summer is almost officially here (June 20), I'd like you to think about the importance of outdoor play and being Choosy outside.

We have changed our patterns of living so much that instead of our kids having to be called in from outside, we have to force them to go outside. Not all children, but too many for this next generation's health, are staying inside and sedentary. Yep, back in the good old days (I AM over 50 so I can say that!), we did play outside from sun up to sun down. A ball and a friend were all we needed some days. During that time, we learned to test our physical skills and our imagination by coming up with fun things to do. We tried to improve our ability to perform whatever the neighborhood challenge was that week like hopscotch or jump rope or throwing a ball to hit a stationary bat.


Outdoor play strengthens our bodies and our minds but it is very important for our bones. Our human race has spent most of its existence and development outside. The sunlight is important for our bodies to produce Vitamin D which in turn helps to strengthen our bones as we work against gravity (like when we walk and run). Certainly we need to protect our skin with sunscreen to prevent damage but that does not mean to stay inside. Building our skeleton leads to better protection as we age. And if we do suffer a broken bone while being active, we tend to heal better if our bones were strong from the start.

Our brains need sunlight too. We are meant to be in the light (but don't forget about using sunglasses and hats for protection from UV rays). Our eyes have developed for daytime activity. Seeing in the dark is for other creatures. But a game of flashlight tag after dark or catching fireflies can help you to appreciate playing in the dark as well! And as the sun sinks our brain makes melatonin which helps us to sleep better and more soundly.

How about the freedom of space that being outside affords? It gives us all a chance to spread our arms (wings?) and move over the ground in a way we can't when we are indoors. That unrestricted movement, along with a chance to use our outside voices, is exhilarating. Physical activity causes our muscles to stretch, send signals to our brain to learn new movements, to release endorphins (the "feel good" brain chemicals) and just have fun! I love to take a walk at lunchtime and be able to hear the noise from an elementary school playground at recess. I know those children will be able to focus better during their afternoon classes because they had a chance to PLAY OUTSIDE.

How do you think that being outside helps you and the children in your life? Choosy loves the outdoors, too! In fact, take a look at this music video for Be Choosy Outside!



About the Author: I have been a pediatrician for over 25 years. My husband and I have been privileged to raise 4 bright and healthy children. I have tried to gather wisdom from the families I have been blessed to meet during my journey. I believe in practical and flexible parenting to help raise healthy adults. I love to garden, hike, travel and cook and I am looking forward to hearing from Choosy followers.

33 comments :

  1. Thankfully this year my daughter is all about being outside! Years past unless she was in the pool I had to force outdoor play. Glad she has finally realized outside is fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it is an age thing too! The older kids get, the more they can do outside. Plus the sun does wear little ones out crazy fast! Keep up the great work, mama!

      Delete
  2. My boys will be outside all summer long! They love to play outdoors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Boys will be boys outside - that is for sure!!

      Delete
  3. Being outside is so important for kids. It can be a challenge though in some places when the temps are in the 90s.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! So what do you do in those situations? Hit up the pool, find a shaded tree area and play there? I also think going outside for short bursts of time is great, making sure that you pay attention to water intake and those UV rays!

      Delete
  4. I love this! It's so hard for our kids to play outside here in AZ because it's around 110 right now...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uhg I believe it. Get out the hose and play in the sprinklers for a little bit, but then be sure to get out of the UV too after awhile.

      Delete
  5. I allow half hour of electronics (which is usually computer time to do whatever they do, it's not always games, sometimes educational) with that being said, two chores must be completed to earn that half hour daily ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a good rule! And then they can do whatever the rest of the day?

      Delete
  6. It's important for the kids to be active during the summer, and you simply cannot do that while they sit at home and play on their tablets. It's good to come up with activities that they can do outside!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! It is sad that the "guidelines" say 60 minutes of play a day for everyone, but really, we should be doing so much more than that!

      Delete
  7. Getting outside is so important for all ages! Nothing is better than getting fresh air - unless of course its 120 degrees lol!! Spending time by the pool as much as possible :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And remember the sunscreen, hats and sunglasses!

      Delete
  8. We love to be outside! I think it helps to have the whole family involved. We hike together and bike together and throw the frisbee... Whenever we can! All winter we are waiting for the warmth to return, and the fun. With the distraction of electronics as powerful as it is, I think its even more important to lead by example. When YouTube is proving a powerful temptation to our tween son, we have to encourage him more. We have to pay attention and remind him that even YouTube can't beat a day at the pool and a BBQ! He is interested in his health also so I think this post is important for that reason too. Most kids want to be healthy, mention of the facts here may inspire them even more! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES! Love that family time! If everyone is doing something together, then no one will be tempted to want to play on an electronic device.

      Delete
  9. You are right, outdoor activities makes the body stronger. Kids should play outside while its summer just always stay hydrated!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With water...not sugary, sweet juices or sports drinks!

      Delete
  10. I let my child play outside so he can explore and enjoy it. I also limit him on gadgets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good, Nicole! Keep up the great parenting!

      Delete
  11. I love being outside. My girls have a ton of fun outside when it's nice out. We have so much they can do outside too. I love that summer is here because of all the activities we can do outdoors.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Outdoor play is crucial for your mind as well as the body, and for kids, it is a necessity. Outdoor activities likewise help in curing certain stress and anxiety issues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, yes and YES! Great points, Akhil!

      Delete
  13. I don't think I've known anyone who suffered from sun problems because of playing outside regularly, so while I accept the fact that it's possible, it's really nothing to worry about. Kids really need to go outside more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As long as you prepare well for outside play, then you should be good to go for awhile outside. This means sunscreen, hats and sunglasses :)

      Delete
  14. Like any other kids, my Kids too have so much fun staying outside during summer. Infact outdoor activities are the best rather than being idle with the gadgets & mobile games as most kids just addicted to such latest technologies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it so nice when the weather is actually nice enough to go play outside!?

      Delete
  15. Oh, my little guy and I LOVE being outside! It has been especially beautiful here lately, so we've been getting out as much as possible!

    ReplyDelete
  16. My son has always loved sports and the outdoors. Kids need less time in front of a screen and more time exploring the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup! And even when they are in school they need to be up and moving more (but that's a whole new discussion!)

      Delete
  17. My sons are all about being outside. They love to explore and find bugs!

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Choosy's Blog Archive