Between 1980 and today, childhood obesity has tripled, raising from 6.5 percent to 19.6 percent . With the nonstop influx of fast food chains popping up on every block, slinging happy meals on street corners like sketchy drug deals, this comes as no surprise.
From television, flashy touchscreen devices and the internet, playground equipment has been left to rust. Children don’t care to go outside for active, imaginative play when they can just push a button and access endless entertainment in the comfort of their living rooms.
As parents, we are responsible.
When’s the last time you heard of families installing backyard swingsets, building sandboxes, assembling trampolines or shopping for playground equipment? Outdoor play is critical to a child’s developmental health and is quickly blending in with the past.
Taking a leisurely stroll around Rochester, NY recently, I counted all the ‘for sale’ signs I saw. With summer around the corner, I couldn’t believe how much unwanted playground equipment there was. On every other street were cardboard signs informing passersby of trampolines for sale; jungle gyms for sale; swing sets for sale. Each sign read at the bottom: “Inquire by email.”
This is more than just a lament of the forgotten outdoor playset. It’s bigger than just nostalgia for playground equipment. We are selling our children short by allowing them to sit drooling on the rug with nothing more than an iPhone and a Ritalin prescription. Outdoor play holds so many benefits which we, as guardians, have been scrolling over:
Recent studies suggest that an hour or two a day on playground equipment can be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.
Being active on playground equipment is a form of exercise, which results in a healthier, stronger child.
It has been proven that stress levels in children fall dramatically within minutes of seeing green spaces.