When my kids go to their annual pediatric appointment, I answer a lot of questions about their diet, activities, and environment. At my 4 and 5 year old’s well check visit the doctor asked, “Is your child enrolled in any extra curricular activities after school?”
The question took me by surprise, and it left me wondering if it is now considered best practice to have young children enrolled in activities outside of school?
At the time, I answered, “No, we play outside after school. That’s enough for them.“
I left the doctor’s office wanting to say more.
I wanted to say, “Why don’t you ask parents how often their kids are playing outdoors?”
I left frustrated that this one question about extra curricular activities may lead parents to believe that their young children need to be enrolled in activities outside the home.
Instead of encouraging parents to spend time with their children after a long day of school and work, they are suggesting that kids need to be under the guidance of another adult rather than benefiting from free time with their family.
As a mother of children who have diagnosed hyperactivity issues, I am discouraged that they don’t ask this question for kids who have a greater need to move their bodies and possibly benefit from nature’s healing by playing outdoors.
Now, the only extra curricular activity we do is weekly swim lessons.
Our children don’t need to be enrolled in extra curricular activities after school. Some schools limit outdoor play to as little as 20 minutes a day. Our kids need unstructured outdoor play after school.
Save yourself some money from activity fees. Save yourself some time driving. Save yourself some stress rushing to get your kids to activities on time.
Limit extra curricular activities to only what is necessary for your young school age children.
Sure, extra curricular activities are fun for kids. But playing outdoors is fun for kids, and it helps improve their behavior in a way that adult directed activities cannot because extra curricular activities lack freedom.
Parents, give your children the gift of time. Free time after school to play outdoors. Give your child the gift of fond childhood memories of playing outdoors.
Please, Doctors, ask this question to parents, “How often are your kids playing outdoors?” Stop encouraging them to enroll our youngest children in extra curricular activities after school. Advise them to take their kids outside to play.
Those doctors who do advise plenty of outdoor play, thank you. Keep spreading this important message.
No, I am not a doctor, but I am a mom and educator who knows that outdoor play benefits my children’s health. If something benefits children’s health it should be encouraged by professionals that parents trust.