By now, most of us know that we need to limit screen time for our kids and get them moving, but we know less about what kind of movement our kids need and why it is so critical for their overall development. We want opportunities for our kids to be ready to learn and to be successful in school. For instance, we might worry that our three-year-old can’t write their name yet, or we might brag about our four-year-old’s good reading ability. But I’ll let you in on a secret: The easiest, most affordable, and powerful developmental opportunity you can provide for your child is to allow them the space and time for unstructured, active, outdoor play in nature. Here’s why.
Carpool? (Check.) Work? (Check.) Lunch break? No. Pay bills and schedule doctor visits? (Check.) Pick up kids? (Check.) Homework? (Check.) Worry about bullying? (Check.) Made dinner? (Check.) Referee sibling squabbles and then collapse on the couch? (Check.) Single parents have important (and seemingly endless) responsibilities. Unless you have super powers, the stress of doing it all yourself can be overwhelming. But asking for assistance isn’t easy.
Tony was eight years old when his parents separated and later divorced. When his dad moved out, it was very traumatic for his mother. She cried and screamed. His dad didn’t say good-bye to him or explain what was going on. His mom later explained that his dad was going to live somewhere else and Tony could go to see his dad some weekends at his dad’s new place if he wanted to. But Tony’s mom told him with tears in her eyes when she told him about it. Tony loved his mom and didn’t want to see her in pain, so he decided there and then that he would not talk to his mom about the divorce again.
“Mommy, keep the hall light on,” my six-year-old reminds me as I tuck his beloved blanket securely around his slender frame and lean over to kiss him good night. I’ve plugged in a night light in his room and another in the adjoining bathroom. The orange glow of the street lamp outside bounces off the wall over his bed. He already seems bathed in light, but I flip the hall light on anyway. 10 minutes later, I’m rewarded with the sweet, even-keeled breathing of a child asleep.
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