Go out and play!
Considering how often I repeated the “Go out and play” phrase when my kids were still living at home, I’m surprised that I never wrote it down and never attached it to the refrigerator by a magnet...until last week. Instead, I repeated it every day, as needed. And, it’s a phrase I heard every day from my mom when I was young.
I still feel relieved that when my kids were young, smart phones, tablets and iPads were not yet a thing. We had a TV in the house, but our house rule was that the kids couldn’t watch TV during the school week. The phones and electronics didn’t become a part of their everyday use until high school, and by then they already developed good play and outdoor habits. I’m glad I didn’t have to parent around that when they were young, but I like to think I would have instituted the same rule as we did with the TV.
While I know I made my fair share of parenting mistakes, I also know that limiting screen time and sending my kids out to play were two of my better decisions. I chuckle now when I remember how they resisted at times and how they found the no TV rule to be Draconian, but all three of them, now in their 20s, tell me they appreciate those rules and will encourage the same when they become parents. And we all laugh over fond memories of playing an assortment of sports and games in the yard, climbing the play structures in Codner’s Ferry Park, creating swim games at Scott Pool, performing plays in the park, and jumping from the tree at Bellinger Island into Beresford Creek. We also laugh over my hardcore enforcement of going out to play, even in the hot days of summer.
Here’s why, after all these years, “Go out and play” is finally posted on our fridge. Last week I read a report from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control summarizing the test results from the S.C. FitnessGram project, available at scaledown.org. They are eye-opening statistics: nearly 37 percent of South Carolina’s youth are obese or overweight; over 50 percent do not meet health-related standards for heart-lung fitness when tested on physical activities such as brisk walking or running.
Scaledown.org also reports that two out of three South Carolina adults are overweight or obese.
While FitnessGram and PE classes help students to focus on fitness, it can’t replace what we encourage in our own homes and what we model ourselves.
Not only is play and exercise good for our overall physical health, neuroscientists now know that physical activity creates new neural pathways in the brain and improves our mental health and our ability to think clearly.
Take my mom’s advice. Post her directive on the fridge. Send your kids out to play. And while you’re at it, go out and play with them! And, if you don’t have kids at home, go out and play yourself or with your friends.
As for my dad’s advice, “Go play in the street”…well, that’s probably a totally different column.
Suzanne Detar’s book -- Don’t Lose the Ball in the Lights and Other Life Lessons from Sports -- is available for purchase at Island Expressions, 126 Seven Farms Dr., and online in print and as an ePub at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play and iBooks. Learn more at www.SuzanneDetar.com.