Monitoring, structuring, and protecting reduce children’s activity and health.
Most of my writing about children’s free play has been about the mental health benefits (e.g. here), but in this essay, I’m concerned with the physical health benefits. Children are designed, by nature, to play often in physically vigorous ways. That is how they develop fit bodies and the capacity for graceful, well-coordinated movement. Over the past several decades, children’s opportunities to play freely and vigorously have been greatly reduced, and over this same period, their physical fitness has declined. Here I’ll summarize some of the research showing how our practices of monitoring children, structuring their activities and protecting them have reduced their physical activity and health.
Adult-supervised trips to the park cannot substitute for free neighborhood play.