Tuesday 27 Sep 2016

Go Outside
Jennifer Flaten

I feel that playing outside was truly one of the best things about childhood. Do you remember all the fun you had running, climbing and playing outside? I do. As an adult, I wish I still had summer vacation, with all it's glorious time spent outdoors. I think playing outside is an intrinsic part of childhood. To that end, I make sure my kids get plenty of outside time. A fact, I am sure our neighbors don't appreciate. Especially, when the kids are running and screaming outside at 8am on a Sunday. Hey that is what summer is for! Alas, we seem to be the only people who do enjoy the outside now a days.

I came to that conclusion by simple observation. In my neighborhood, I know there are other children. I have seen the them clustered around the school bus stop and being chauffeured around by their parents. Yet, to my dismay, these are the only places that I have seen them. I have never witnessed these children playing or for that matter, simply out in their yard.

So where exactly have all the kids gone? Well, if TV is to be believed, and why would it lie? Children seem to spend an enormous amount of time inside; doing non-athletic, non-playing things. So much so, that even the TV executives are concerned. So just how concerned are these TV executives? So concerned that they have placed ads on TV telling you to make sure to send your kids outside to play. Something that used to be a given, going outside to play, is now something that the media feels they need to address.

I know, it seems counter intuitive for the TV people to be telling you to go outside. Sure it is simply CYA, on their part and a little bit of lip service to those that watch out for our health. Still, you have to shake your head in wonder about TV telling you to get your kids outside to play.

What I can't quite figure out is why parents seem to no longer deem it necessary to send their kids outside to play. If I were to speculate, I would say that their thinking goes something like this: Outside? That is a strange and dangerous place, filled with bugs, scary people and dirt! We can't possible send little junior out there, something might happened to him.

From there the justifications become even more persuasive. You can just hear the parents talking amongst themselves, saying things like "Why the Wii Tennis game is just as good as the old fashioned game". Plus, putting your kid in front of a game console reduces the effort these parents have to put forth. Look at it from the parents point of view, if junior is in the living room playing virtual golf, then junior doesn't have to be dressed for golf, or for that matter driven to golf. What a bonus for these parents.

Having your kid wired into the virtual world completely eliminates the need to hang around and monitor your kid playing outside. It makes sense, if their kid is engrossed in the TV, then they can be inside with him, glued to the multi media device of their choice. I am sure it is only a matter of time before Wii invents the virtual jungle gym or the virtual merry go round thus, completely eliminating the need to go to the park.

Playing virtual sports and doing virtual exercises is NOT the same as good, old fashioned fresh air play. Still people buy into it and let their kids spend an entire day entranced by a glowing box.

So what if this leads to fat kids? So what if, in turn, these fat kids get high cholesterol? No problem, we will just load the kids up with some FDA approved cholesterol medication and continue on. Before you point out that drug companies claim that high cholesterol is a genetic disorder, I will stop you right in your tracks and say genetic or not an 8 year old should not be suffering from heart disease.

Isn't anyone else concerned about children with high cholesterol or Vitamin D deficiency? Are we that willing to just load them up with drugs, instead of trying to solve the root problem. You combine the lack of exercise (real outdoor exercise) with parents who don't want the hassle of forcing the kids to eat healthy and you have a recipe for disaster. We all know that getting a kid to eat healthy is hard. You have to do it though, too many parents just take the easy route and hand the kid a Big Mac. To make matters worse, the kid eats the sandwich while playing the latest bowling video game. A couple years of that, and you got a kid who is overweight and suffering from a myriad of problems.

The solution really is simple. Start sending them outside to play. Playing outside in the fresh air does wonders for the appetite. Before you know it they kids come in all exhausted and hungry, ready to eat a nice healthy meal. A few months of that and they won't even want to play a round of virtual golf.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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