There are five reasons children need playtime and five ways parents justify not getting it, says author Sue Palmer, who gives the reasons, the justifications and some suggestions for getting play back into a child's life.
1. Toddlers learn through play. Learning is based on the quality of early play experiences. However, parents' fears about safety and germs often trap toddlers in front of the TV or elsewhere, corralled in safety seats and strollers.
Solution: Let your child stretch, crawl and explore her environment on her own with more floor time.
2. Fresh air and exercise make children healthy. Running off excess energy outside can benefit physical growth and coordination. Concerns about stranger danger, traffic and even weather conditions impact whether parents allow their children to soak up the sun.
Solution: Slap on some sunscreen and head to a park. Let your children run, play and explore in an open area to work off that energy and work their bodies.
3. Outdoor play develops kids' minds. From playing in the mud to sword fights with tree branches, outdoor activities unlock a child's imagination. Fear of "getting dirty" often puts a stop to this type of play.
Solution: Designate some clothes for outdoors or "getting dirty" activities so your child feels free to build those mud pies and sand castles, or just roam the outdoors without worry.
4. Free-range play teaches life skills and reduces bullying. Unstructured play produces everyday adventures and experiences that teach children how to make judgments and avoid danger. As a result of over-supervision, children don't have the opportunity to learn without immediate adult interruptions.
Solution: Let your kids work it out while you keep a watchful eye from a distance. They just might surprise you with innovative problem solving.
5. Physical education classes and competitive sports teach kids about collaboration and cooperation. However, in a society where accidents often lead to litigation, many schools discontinue sports and activities that carry the risk of physical injury.