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Lessons Kids Learn from Unstructured Play

July 8, 2019 by HealthyFamilies BC

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Lessons Kids Learn from Unstructured Play

Have you ever seen a kid do something you know likely won’t end well? Like running backwards as fast as they can; or jumping off things that you think might be too much for them? You probably want to stop them, but sometimes, it might be best to let them play and learn.

Parents want the best for their children; they aim for positive parenting, healthy eating, and safety. When it comes to physical activity, over-supervising children’s play can limit the amount of time kids are active which can slow their ability to develop skills and learn.

Current research shows that kids who are active on their own outdoors (vs. being active indoors) move more and sit less, have better motor skills (the ability to carry out basic body movements), and are three times more likely to meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Children.

Once a year, ParticipACTION releases a report on the status of physical activity levels in Canada’s children and youth. This year’s key message is that Canadian kids need to move more. The full report is freely available, but if you’re time-crunched the highlight report is a quick read.

The report highlights that kids need to put down their phones, get off the couch and break a sweat. What better way to do that than with some outdoor free play? Outdoor free play is most beneficial when it’s exciting, challenging and unsupervised. Parents might worry about their kids getting injured, but kids are quite good at determining their own risk boundaries. Yes, a scraped knee will most likely happen at some point and it does hurt, but the majority of injuries that happen during play are minor and can be a great learning experience for the future.

The take home message is that playing outdoors improves physical, mental, social and environmental health for children, also it’s fun! If cold weather is an obstacle in getting your family playing outside, call the Physical Activity Services at HealthLink BC (8-1-1).for tips to stay moving during cold weather.


Related blogs

Benefits of the Natural Playground
Outdoor Play

Recommended resources

ParticipACTION: Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth
Macleans: Playing, with fire: How much risk should we expose our kids to?

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