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I remember when my oldest daughter was 4 years old, she asked me, “Can I go play in the backyard?”

She was referring to our balcony. In downtown Manhattan. A place where it’s actually illegal to climb trees.

And that’s when I sort of had an epiphany. I adore New York City but I wanted my kids to be able to play outside. You know, without bumping into our illegal balcony grill.

So we forged ahead to the suburbs where food is much less desirable but climbing trees is aplenty. As long as we give our kids time to actually do it. The truth is – it’s easy to get sucked into an array of organized activities like Mandarin Basketball and Knitting Hats for Polar Bears with Recycled Materials. (I think those are real activities.)

But children can’t just knit hats for polar bears. Obviously. They need time to just play.

Like the ole days when hair was feathered, we all drank Tab and thick gold chains were super hot. (That’s the 70’s in case you’re still super young with smooth, porcelain skin.)

Studies show play is an essential part of early childhood development. But the average amount of time that kids spend outside is down. Way down. Our recesses have been shortened (my own daughters’ have a 15 minute school recess!) and fewer kids have access to outdoor play spaces.

One company, Playworld Systems (a US manufacturer of  playground equipment) is leading a campaign to save play.

And summer is the perfect time to get children off the iTechnology, send them outside and let them explore their world. They can move, climb, build, skip, laugh, make up games, play in the mud, insist they are bored, realize you don’t care and then do more climbing, building and laughing.

kid playing in trees

Even if you aren’t comfortable sending them off on their bikes for 6 hours like the Lewis & Clark of the suburbs, you can still let them do this in your backyard or neighborhood playground.

kid swinging on tree swing

Kids are ridiculously creative if we just let them… be.

I mean, I left my daughters upstairs for 6 minutes the other day and they had rearranged the furniture, gathered every doll and stuffed animal they could find and set up an entire imaginary school. My gosh, can you imagine if I left them for 7 minutes?

So here are some super great reasons to let your children get out and play…


— Not nearly as messy as playing indoors (like no heavy furniture rearranging).

— When you tell them to go outside and play, you can crack open a Fresca, kick your feet up and feel confident that you are a parenting rock star.

Still not convinced?  Well, take a look at this compelling video put together by Playworld Systems about the importance of unstructured play…

This post is sponsored by Playworld Systems. All ideas are my own. See you outside.

7 Responses to let’s save play together

  • DeNae says:

    I love this. Some of my favorite summer memories as a parent are when I’m sitting in the backyard watching the kids invent a game. It usually involves a sprinkler and throwing things and diving on grass and good, honest, beautiful, laughter-filled fun.

  • Patrick says:

    Thank you for this post. LOVE your humor, and the video. Please. . . let’s let our kids get back to being kids.

  • Princess Judy says:

    As kids we were banned from being inside in the summer (except rainy days). We could come in for potty and drink breaks. Sometimes we really didn’t want to play outside so we would come in and play in our rooms quietly so mom wouldn’t know we weren’t outside. She probably knew but as long as we were quiet she didn’t care. We loved being outside, climbing trees, riding bikes, playing in the creek, playing on the swing set. Those were the days. That was in Ohio. Outside here in southern Arizona is a whole different game. It’s way too hot and everything has stickers.

  • Tracy Wydra says:

    Did you see the article about “The Land” in the Atlantic? It’s a Welsh adventure playground and the article talks all about the benefits of unstructured outdoor play.

  • NannySue says:

    I love all your writing, but I especially love this one. Nothing makes me more crazy than seeing children sitting and concentrating on an iPad, iPhone, etc. or watching television all day. They should be drawing, looking at books, jumping in puddles, looking for insects, etc. There’s way too much structure in children’s lives now, and not enough of just being. And yes, there’s nothing better than hearing no noise for a brief moment, long enough to sit and relax for 90 seconds until the next “MOM”!

  • daphne says:

    You’re down there drinking Tab and Fresca? Where did you move – 1977??
    Best thing I’ve heard my kids say all summer “I’m bored.” Pathetic how happy that made me.

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kelcey kintner