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Experts fear today's empty playgrounds
Stockton Record ^ | July 09, 2007 | Jennifer Torres

Posted on 07/09/2007 12:08:15 PM PDT by fgoodwin

Experts fear today's empty playgrounds

By Jennifer Torres
July 09, 2007
Record Staff Writer

Heat on Friday nudged outdoor playtime earlier and cut it shorter than scheduled for nearly 70 children at Stockton's Seifert Community Center day camp.

Once it got going, though, campers cheered on teammates during a running, jumping, twirling relay race, while other groups played basketball or made up their own games on playground equipment.

Some outdoor play - any outdoor play - is important, recreation leader Michaiah Martin said. "Keeping them inside compresses a lot of the negative energies."

According to environmentalists, child-development specialists and other advocates, telling kids to "Go out and play" can keep them healthier, less stressed and more imaginative.

But, those advocates worry, what used to be something children just did - playing outside - is becoming increasingly rare amid the wide-ranging allure of television, video games and other indoor pursuits, as well as parents' worries about sending their kids out-of-doors without supervision.

If he was at home instead of at day camp, 12-year-old Alonzo Easter said, he would probably "ride my bike, play with my friends."

He would like to play video games, he said, but his parents limit that to 30 minutes a day.

Most children Alonzo's age spend much more time in front of a screen or monitor.

A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids ages 8 to 18 spend more than six hours every day with TV, music, video games, computers and movies.

Children 6 and younger, the foundation determined, spend two hours per day using computers or televisions - about as much time as they spend playing outside.

Parents also have a role in keeping kids indoors.

According to U.S. Census figures, more than half of children younger than 6 in San Joaquin County have two working parents; there might not be time for a family walk in the woods.

Outside might also be a scary place.

"Fear is the most potent force that prevents parents from allowing their children the freedom they themselves enjoyed when they were young," Richard Louv writes in his book, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder."

"Fear of traffic, of crime, of stranger-danger - and of nature itself."

Fifth-grader Christiana Smith said she is spending a lot of time this summer singing and practicing guitar. She likes to ride her bike, too, she said. "I just have to ask first."

Children who are decidedly "plugged-in" risk tuning out some of nature's benefits, advocates say. According to research cited by the National Wildlife Federation, children who experience free time outdoors have lower stress levels, play more creatively and are in better shape than those who do not.

The federation urges a "green hour," time every day for children to enjoy unstructured, outside play.

The U.S. Forest Service, too, is advocating for increased outdoors activities. In May, the agency announced $1.5 million in funding for programs that help connect kids with nature. California recipients were the Outdoors Experiences Program in Inyo National Forest ($92,000), and SSTARS Summer Camp in Sequoia National Forest ($29,400).

Susie Douglas is San Joaquin program coordinator at the Center for Land-Based Learning.

San Joaquin County teens participate in the center's FARMS Leadership program, which aims to teach students the relationship between agricultural practices and the environment, as well as the Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship, or SLEWS, program, which involves participants in habitat-restoration projects.

"They go out into the woods and they being to look at their neighborhoods differently," Douglas said about teens' experiences with nature.

"Are they spending too much time indoors? Well, I think once you motivate them by exciting them about the opportunities, about something that makes a difference ... they want to know more," Douglas said. "They care."

On Friday, Diantha Devers was among 10 Stockton child-care providers who met for a play date at Stockton's Weber Point fountain.

They watched their charges laugh and scream and splash in the water.

"Children learn by playing," Devers said. "When they are outside ... they can touch the grass. They learn the grass is important. They learn the trees are important. They learn what the water sounds like."

Contact reporter Jennifer Torres at (209) 546-8252 or

TOPICS: Education; Health/Medicine; Outdoors; Society
KEYWORDS: children; kids; outdoors; parentalfear; play; playgrounds; playtime; strangerdanger

1 posted on 07/09/2007 12:08:16 PM PDT by fgoodwin
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To: fgoodwin

Children learn by playing,” Devers said. “When they are outside ... they can touch the grass. They learn the grass is important. They learn the trees are important. They learn what the water sounds like.”....Give it a break tard!

2 posted on 07/09/2007 12:17:18 PM PDT by AngelesCrestHighway
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To: AngelesCrestHighway

No question about it....we need more programs and more outreach awareness enfranchised opportunities for these chillrun!

Also, we need a gummint study to prove that kids today like and furthermore, need to play outside more.

3 posted on 07/09/2007 12:26:55 PM PDT by Seeking the truth (Freep Gear & Pajama Patrol Badges @
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To: Seeking the truth

No, we don’t need more government intrusion.

But I must admit my kids don’t spend nearly as much time outside as I did when I was a kid back in the early 60s.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know my son’s friends aren’t outside either, so there’s no one for him to play with when he does go outside.

4 posted on 07/09/2007 12:34:01 PM PDT by fgoodwin (Fundamentalist, right-wing nut and proud father of a Star Scout!)
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To: AngelesCrestHighway

Ans all along, when I told my kids to go out and play, I thought I was doing it to give me some peace and quiet! Now, I learn that I was giving them the opportunity to touch grass. Who knew? /s

5 posted on 07/09/2007 12:52:07 PM PDT by trimom
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To: fgoodwin
Low Vitamin D Levels May Be Common In Otherwise Healthy Children
6 posted on 07/09/2007 3:55:42 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
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To: fgoodwin

The best place to play in summertime is in a cool basement with a model railroad.

7 posted on 07/09/2007 3:58:48 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew
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