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.
There are a lot of clichés about fathers. Commercials often portray us as the ‘bumbling parent’ who gets lost trying to change a diaper and instantly panics as soon as mom isn’t around. We’re routinely characterized as the rock in the family that never cries, the parent who tells our son to always be tough and never show their emotions, and threatens our daughter’s dates at the front door with a shotgun or pitch fork. We’re supposed to go to work and be the breadwinner, drink beer, and enjoy spending our time on the couch watching sports more than spending time with our kids.
While shopping recently, a teen celebrity magazine caught my daughter’s eye. I was prepared for the begging to kick in, which would quickly be followed by the pouting when I refused to purchase the magazine for her. But I was pleasantly surprised when she didn’t even ask me to pay for the magazine. She quietly put it back on the shelf and followed me when I told her it was time to move on with our shopping.
When I see my kid flipping out over not getting a toy at the grocery store checkout aisle, scary things pop into my head. I picture my kid, in the future, throwing a pen across the room at their boss when they don’t get the promotion they want. I also picture them trying unsuccessfully to deal with things I have to deal with every day: road rage, a tantrum-y toddler, impatience over a failing recipe. And this is why I am determined to raise a resilient, problem-solving child, one who is able to roll with the punches life will inevitably throw their way.
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