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Move Childhood Back Outdoors This Summer
Date:6/4/2010

d development at Tufts University and author of The Power of Play.

"One of the consequences of childhood moving indoors is the culture of childhood, passed down for hundreds of years [is lost]," Elkind said. He recalls childhoods of the past, where outdoor play was plentiful, and kids learned to handle their own quarrels, negotiate their turn at games, and have other valuable learning experiences.

Even with that list of benefits, however, it can be difficult to get kids out of the house, Mizejewski and Elkind agreed.

So how to make it happen? "Parents need to make it a priority," Mizejewski said.

Taking back control can make it easier. "Kids don't control how they spend their time," he said. "Adults do."

Parents can also emphasize a balance between indoor and outdoor activities, Elkind said, such as "an hour of screen time, an hour of outdoor play, being with your friends."

The screen time might include a nature show. Mizejewski has hosted on Animal Planet, for instance.

Some adults become convinced that outdoor time is crucial once they hear enough statistics. Today, 8- to 18-year-olds log an average of 53 hours a week using entertainment media, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study released in January.

Only three of 10 respondents said they had any rules about media use.

The answer isn't to simply tell your kids to go outside, Mizejewski and Elkind agreed.

A child's appreciation of play and the outdoors "has to come from example," Elkind said. "It can't come from preaching. There has to be some adult guidance and direction."

"Parents can carve out an hour in the evening," Mizejewksi said, and plan something outdoors as a family. "You don't have to be an early childhood educator or a naturalist to be able to give your kids these important nature activities," he pointed out.

"Kids need unstructured play time, outside in nature
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