The Question More Pediatricians Should Ask Parents

Sunday, March 31, 2013

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outdoor play pediatric medicine

When my kids go to their annual pediatric appointment, I answer a lot of questions about their diet, activities, and environment.  At my 4 and 5 year old's well check visit the doctor asked, "Is your child enrolled in any extra curricular activities after school?"


The question took me by surprise, and it left me wondering if it is now considered best practice to have young children enrolled in activities outside of school?

At the time, I answered, "No, we play outside after school. That's enough for them."

I left the doctor's office wanting to say more.

I wanted to say, "Why don't you ask parents how often their kids are playing outdoors?"

I left frustrated that this one question about extra curricular activities may lead parents to believe that their young children need to be enrolled in activities outside the home.

Instead of encouraging parents to spend time with their children after a long day of school and work, they are suggesting that kids need to be under the guidance of another adult rather than benefiting from free time with their family.

As a mother of children who have diagnosed hyperactivity issues, I am discouraged that they don't ask this question for kids who have a greater need to move their bodies and possibly benefit from nature's healing by playing outdoors.

Now, the only extra curricular activity we do is weekly swim lessons.

Our children don't need to be enrolled in extra curricular activities after school.   Some schools limit outdoor play to as little as 20 minutes a day.  Our kids need unstructured outdoor play after school.

Save yourself some money from activity fees.  Save yourself some time driving.  Save yourself some stress rushing to get your kids to activities on time.

Limit extra curricular activities to only what is necessary for your young school age children.

Sure, extra curricular activities are fun for kids.  But playing outdoors is fun for kids, and it helps improve their behavior in a way that adult directed activities cannot because extra curricular activities lack freedom.

Parents, give your children the gift of time.  Free time after school to play outdoors.  Give your child the gift of fond childhood memories of playing outdoors.

Please, Doctors, ask this question to parents, "How often are your kids playing outdoors?"  Stop encouraging them to enroll our youngest children in extra curricular activities after school.  Advise them to take their kids outside to play.  

Those doctors who do advise plenty of outdoor play, thank you.  Keep spreading this important message.

No, I am not a doctor, but I am a mom and educator who knows that outdoor play benefits my children's health.  If something benefits children's health it should be encouraged by professionals that parents trust.  

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Now, it's your turn to share your outdoor play posts at the Outdoor Play Party. 

11 comments:

Michele said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Keep in mind that some docs will do their "sports physical"screenings the same time as your physical if they know the kids are going to need it anyway...saving you the time & expense of another visit. They are also screening for you child hobbies to see if they need additional screening or safety reminders.

Michele said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Keep in mind that some docs will do their "sports physical"screenings the same time as your physical if they know the kids are going to need it anyway...saving you the time & expense of another visit. They are also screening for you child hobbies to see if they need additional screening or safety reminders.

iGameMom said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I am glad my son's school still have time to play outside. They even allow kids to bring snow pants and boots so they can go out at recess during winter snowy days.

maryanne @ mama smiles said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Outdoor play has wonderful benefits for kids. Great idea!

Mama Carmody said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thank you so much for sharing. I totally agree that children today are involved in too many extra activities. They need time at home to play and use their imaginations. Let them go out use their energy, get dirty and build their immunities.

Mary Catherine said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Rebekah, I completely agree with you! My son has a wonderful pediatrician, and she did actually ask about what he likes to do outside at his 5-year check up. Last year, I remember reading a study that children need a bare minimum of an hour unstructured movement/outside play every day (need to find that study). My son's behavior is always helped with playing outside. :)

katepickle said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh this is so true!
why didn't they ask how often your kids get to 'just play'??
I am so thankful that here in Australia outdoor play is still a big part of school, but the pressure to fill up after school with activities is very high. My kids do one extra activity each and even then that feels busy, especially now the oldest are in grade three and have some limited homework to do each week which takes even more time away from play....

Jen Farr said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Fantastic post! I totally agree, doctors should be asking about outdoor play...free play. My girls do extra curricular dance and music classes, but they get the most physical activity when they are outside running around and playing after school. So important.

hilljean said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This post made me so happy. I was shouting amen all throughout! I was a child who played outside almost every day of my life. My parents didn't have the money for us to be enrolled in a ton of extracurricular activities. I sometimes feel guilty that my little guys aren't in more things. Really, beyond preschool and sunday school my kids are at home with me and their dad. But we live on a playground and we are outside every day the weather allows. I have to scrub them down every night they are so dirty from their play :) If I have to scrub at their feet extra hard then I know I'm doing my job as their mom. They are having FUN and using their imagination and energetic little bodies.

Did I already say I love your post? So good!

Hannah Harris said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I really enjoyed this post and thought you made some great points so am featuring you tomorrow at the Outdoor Play Party. Looking forward to your post tomorrow!

Lula B @ NavigatingByJoy.com said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I couldn't agree more! Fabulous post. Lucinda

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