Fat and Not Afraid

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Bring Back Play!

November 22, 2012
This post could have also been titled: BC Government Gets it Right or Fun Things I Find in Gabe's Backpack.

For a few weeks now, maybe a month actually, I've been wanting to write about Gabe's dayplanner. It was a manditory purchase because it's a daily communication tool between us and the school, plus sometimes he does homework in it and it's a convenient place to look for notes and other things that come home. It's more than just a planner, however; it's also a daily and weekly activity planner, and by activity, I mean physical activity. It has little blurbs about how and why we should move our bodies every day, and suggestions on what to do and how. Nowhere so far, and it's late November, have I seen a single mention of weight loss or the supposed childhood obesity epidemic. I know Gabe isn't using it for anything but copying off the blackboard small notes for me every day, but I can bet that many other older students, either because of interest or boredom, are reading. Eventually messages about health and wellbeing sink in, absorbed like so many other messages we recieve every day about all manner of things. I'd much rather students see these messages about activity than weight loss!

Today I found more interesting goodness in the planner; a Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines sheet for kids age 5-11, a Let's Bring Back Play! fold-out and a nice button that says "I <3 Play", all from Healthy Families BC. Again, no mention of weight-loss or even managing your weight, in any of the materials. Colour me impressed!



I love that there's a concentrated effort to bring back free play. It wasn't apparent to me before I started reading Free Range Kids how bad things have gotten in some places, how limited kids are to activities that their parents or schools schedule, and how restricted their movements have become due to the culture of fear we now live in. We're afraid our kids will get hurt, or kidnapped, any time they're out of our sight, so we keep them close, which is stifling them in so many ways, not the least of which is physically. Kids NEED free play time to imagine and act-out their imaginings, to draw, paint and colour, to be outside and run in fields or climb trees or build forts. The only structured things Gabe does is school and on Friday evenings, karate for 45 minutes. Unfortunately, a lot of the time he's home, he's attached to a screen; watching cartoons or playing games. This is the opposite of free-play, and is unhealthy on many levels. As important as free-play is, I think of equal importance is screen-free time. As we move forward further into the 21st century, classrooms are going to become another place where screens are a big part of the day. It's good to see the school taking steps to balance things out. I'll be putting the I <3 Play button on his backpack before class tomorrow!

To my American readers, hope you're having a wonderful long weekend/Thankgiving celebration. For everyone else, have a great regular weekend!

I live in a small town in central Minnesota, and while I see plenty of kids wandering through town on their skateboards/inline skates/bikes, very seldom do I see smaller kids playing in their yards, even when the yards are fenced. And our town is relatively safe. The park is right across the street from our house and it's not used very often during the week in the summer time, mostly on weekends. I have no idea where all the kids are hiding, but I know there are younger ones in town, I see the teachers taking them on short walking trips once in a while.
Back in the 1960s, when my brother and I were kids (yeah, I'm showing my age here), we ran all over town, unsupervised for the most part, and our parents never worried that anything bad was going to happen to us (from the time I was 10, I rode my bike to the park, it was over a mile across town, and I had to cross 2 highways to get to it). I don't know when the fear crept in for other parents, my son played out in our yard in the same town I grew up in and it was just as safe for him then as it was for me 20 years earlier.

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I think the big fear factor comes from the widely publicized bad things, when they happen (which is rare). A kid who goes missing in Kansas has their face plastered all over the news in every State. Every terrible accident or injury, the same. You may really enjoy the site Free Range Kids (linked in the article and my sidebar), Vesta. Lenore is trying really hard to help people understand that things are actually safer today than in the 1960s! :D Thanks for commenting.

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I'm a big fan of screen-free time. Our school really promotes the importance of imaginative play and unstructured free time, and I agree.

Computers are a big part of what eats up so much time for kids nowadays, and I find that alarming. Way too stimulating, and way too addicting for some kids.

Our kids have very very limited computer time until high school (when they are required to do homework on it). We are pretty successful at limiting computer time in our house, but limiting TV time is harder. We still do it, but it's not easy sometimes!

I can see the difference in behavior and ability to entertain oneself and play imaginatively when the screen is on too much and when it's off more. Kids NEED plenty of screen-free time.

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