As the technological landscape is constantly evolving, kids are also transitioning into different play options that are available to them; most of them leading inactive lifestyles. The 2014 U.S. Physical Activity Council reports that 80.2 million Americans aged six years above are physically inactive. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition facts further reports that only one out of three children are physically active each day.
Today, children spend less time outdoors than children did 30 years ago because of their fascination of the internet and gadgets such as mobile phones and tablets. They spend more time in games and apps that replace traditional play little by little. And as technology keeps on affecting every area of our daily lives, it will also continue to draw more kids into the “virtual play space”.
Are we allowing kids to leave the playground that we enjoyed when we were young and letting them be trapped with these technology devices? More importantly, are these devices capable of giving children the same benefits that a play area has to offer?
PlayGround vs. PlayStore
Technology has indeed kept children indoors. The culprit includes video games, TV, computers, and other electronic games that are constantly being updated and created. With a single click and swipe, kids instantly download their preferred games and will continue to be hooked to it because of its interactive elements such as graphics and sounds. This scenario can be traced back when children in 1955 saw the Mickey Mouse Club’s (MMC) first appearance on TV. It became the 1st ever TV show made for kids and they began to divert their attention from playing with others to playing with things. Because of technology and media access of kids, they developed sedentary activities by just accessing their gadgets in order to play. This leads to health consequences such as childhood obesity, and recently, rickets. A study in Alaska found out that rickets are becoming more common among kids; the disease caused by chronic vitamin D deficiencies and triggered by having less exposure to sunlight and poor eating habits.
On the other hand, the playground setting is not to be totally ignored. It still boasts of the benefits that it has to offer to all kids regardless of their background. It was reported by the University of North Carolina’s Abecedarian Early Child Intervention program that kids who had early childhood play programs and parenting had higher IQ’s when they reached the age of 5 compared to children who were not involved in the program. And playgrounds have an important role in building the cognitive, economic, social and physical well-being of a kid starting from his early childhood stage. Through different playground activities that are available to kids, it allows them to have an opportunity to develop life skills such as cooperation, negotiating with others, overcoming challenges, and being creative.
No App For Everything
Anything that is in excess is bad, and this holds true even for kids’ playtime. The more they stay indoors in front of their gadgets, there will be lesser opportunities for them to reap the benefits of playtime and socialize with other kids. Recently, three digital media students from Hyper Island school in Sweden created stickers that says “Not available on the App Store,” which is adapted from the Apple App Store icon to remind everyone that life’s most exciting moments—such as playground games—are not usually experienced online. The designers created this because they realized that life moments are not found online all the time, after spending a lot of time looking and accessing apps from their gadgets. They started to inform everyone about this by placing the stickers on an old school playground.
This important learning is not just for kids, but also for parents as well. It is a subtle reminder that parent lessons found in playgrounds are still evident and more important nowadays. Parents should also forget that they are too old enough to utilize outdoor playground equipment with their kids. They should be fully aware that these play experiences not only teaches their life lessons to children, but they are also able to get their fair share of learnings. In fact, according to a blog post of playgroundequipment.com, some of the life lessons we can learn in playground are limitless: from enjoying the rush of life from swings, or managing ups and downs from a seesaw, you will be able to teach these important things to your kids. At the same time you also acquire one of the most important benefits of playground interaction to parents and kids: enjoying and building a healthy parent-child relationship with them.
The Undying Playground Setting
Play holds the key to a happy and healthy life, as they say. And playgrounds offer the opportunity for kids to reduce isolation, depression and fear through quality playtime. Be intentional in encouraging kids to spend more time outdoors, rather than spending long hours in front of gadget screens. You can plan a daily, weekly or monthly playground adventure with them in a specific, accessible playground and make them feel excited of going outdoors. Doing so can build kids’ curiosity for your next trips, and they will feel valued since you get to spend a lot of time with them. Natural play setting, the actual hands-on experience through sandpits, play tunnels, and the fresh air cannot be replaced by a simple hi-tech playing gadget.
Playgrounds are here to stay. Even though the fast-paced digital environment continues to rapidly produce gadgets and other tech stuff that are sure to get the attention of kids, nothing still beats the playground when it comes to its benefits and how playground taught us important lessons in life. The important thing to note is that parents must be able to strike a balance between traditional playing and modern games, in order to raise their kids well and remind them that there isn’t an app for everything in life.
Photo courtesy of Obeymagazine via Pinterest.