We have all seen those little stories on social media setting out how children from the 50s, 60s and 70s used to have all the freedom in the world, playing outdoors all day long (when they were not at school) and how they grew up to become the generation who were so innovative and inventive.
The rise in occupational therapy
Unfortunately, times have changed with the New York Times
reporting that over a four-year period up to 2015, the number of students in New York City public schools being referred for occupational therapy rose by 30% - with similar increases occurring in other cities too. While part of the reason for this was due to the number of autistic students being placed into regular classrooms, it was also attributed to the increased emphasis on "academics" in early-childhood education and much less emphasis on physical activity. And even when children are allowed to engage in physical play during school, they are restricted. Children need to learn their limitations by themselves, not have them imposed upon them. And parents are just as much to blame as the other adults in their lives.
It is time to put back the clock
Modern restrictions on children often result from Health and Safety rules and regulations but, instead of keeping them safe, they are being deprived of valuable life lessons and the exercise they need for healthy psychological and physical growth. We cut down on their physical activity and then wonder why they cannot concentrate in school.
Teachers are reporting increased aggressiveness at recess, decreased ability to regulate emotions of anger and frustration, constant tripping, frequent falling and decreased ability to attend in the classroom. And the need for occupational therapy.
Occupational therapist then have to try and undo the harm caused by the modern day restrictions by getting children to move in all different directions; to have plenty of suspended equipment; to encourage children to go upside down; to jump off objects; to climb to new heights; and to spin in circles. Children need to develop a better sense of body awareness. They need to to repeat those activities that we enjoyed as children – rolling down hills, hanging upside, climbing trees and more. And there is a further benefit from all this activity. These rapid, changing activities move the fluid around in the inner ear to develop a strong sense of balance,
supporting good body awareness, attention and emotional regulation - all essential skills for classroom learning.
Inactivity equals aging
Many children, who have been active as youngsters, will cease such activity as adults which is such a pity because as we age (and if we don't stay active) we will become more likely to fall. The situation could be worse for today's children (if they are not moving around enough as youngsters) when they grow older.
Don't let your children live a sedentary life
- Think before you drive them everywhere instead of encouraging walking or riding.
- Encourage your children to spend much more time outdoors to develop their senses and their muscles. Some of the time spent can be as a family. We share tips on shared family activities.
- Don't limit their physical experiences.
- Don't make them fearful of trying new things or of failing or falling.
- Refrain from being a helicopter parent.
- Help to stimulate and challenge their senses.
- Encourage going barefoot. There are many grounding health benefits from doing so.
Children need to move their bodies the way nature intended
In fact, they need at least three hours of active free play each and every day to maintain good health and wellness. Have you thought how much time your child is getting? Perhaps it is time for a re-think. The country of Finland provides a very good role model
on how to look after your citizens - adults and children alike.