"Come back inside now. It's time for dinner."
Children today have probably never heard this line before. Whatever happened to those fun, precious times?
In America today, if kids are awake, they are probably online. A recent study by Consumer Reports found that around 7.5 million American kids under the age of 13 have joined Facebook. By the time babies today turn 2, more than 90% of all American children will have an online history. The saddest part is the fact that when children today reach middle school, they will spend more time with digital media than their parents.
Children today rarely play outdoors or visit the playground and it is no surprise that we are seeing what seems to be an extinction of outdoor play. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a child is six times more likely to play video games than play outside.
Take them outside
Technology is one thing, parenting is another. It is not fair to blame everything on Facebook or online games. A study published by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine revealed that almost half, or 49 percent, of preschool children aren't taken outside by parents to play on a daily basis. Some 42 percent don't go out with parents at all.
In a special free-play issue of the American Journal of Play, researches urged parents to stop overprotecting their children and let them play. Stranger danger and public playground safety are common reasons for putting children on "house arrest." Researches claimed these reasons, or alibis even, are over-hyped. The key here, they say, is to allot ample time for free-play, choose a safe park or playground, and never let them out of your sight.
Host of HLN's "Raising America" Josh Levs wrote an article for CNN blaming over-scheduling as another problem. For example, a preschooler who aside from school work also takes up piano, swimming and tae kwon do lessons. He says too much structure is hurting children and is depriving them of "what childhood should be."
No sitting still
Active and free play should also be encouraged in schools. In an article for CNN, Carolina Blatt-Gross, assistant professor at the Georgia Gwinnet College, believes that students should not be told to just "sit still" in school. She said that children should be allowed to move and play at school playgrounds or even when completing academic tasks. Physical activities, she says, are part of academic success.
Believing that the mind is nestled within our physicality, progressive schools have employed the use of treadmill desks and bouncy balls or bean bags to substitute desk chairs. Recess or break times should also include a trip to the school playground.
What to do
The landscape of childhood has been revolutionized over a generation. Change all that and bring back the fun of childhood the way it used to be with some easy steps.
Take your kids biking, hiking, or flying remote controlled helicopters. Take the dog for a walk and while you're at it, allow your kids to experience what nature feels like: let them pick up stones, touch tree branches, play with sand, and hop along on the grass.
Build your own budget playground in the backyard. Chase bubbles and throw balls of water against a wall. Bring a parachute or an old sheet outside and circle it or make waves with it. If you are more resourceful, set up an obstacle course with old tires and boxes.
Ask them to help you out in the garden and give each child a marked bed. Try putting out bird feeders, too. Encourage them to play with mud, water, dirt mounds, and embrace messy fun. Invite other kids in your neighborhood and make playtime a social event.
Technology creeps in like the tide and is blamed for the extinction of outdoor play but there is no sense competing with it. What you can do as a parent is to make a commitment to spend more time with your children. Let go of the fear and anxiety. Do not structure your kids' childhood to your convenience, and let your kids be kids.
Aby League is a qualitative researcher and a passionate writer. She has writen about health, psychology and technology. She has a bachelor's degree in biology and is currently taking her master's while balancing her time as a freelance writer and researcher.