Obesity statistics are rising at an alarming rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says childhood obesity rates more than doubled from 1980 to 2010. Outdoor play is an important part of the conversation when we think about the health and wellness of young children for a variety of reasons. Unstructured outdoor play is associated with greater amounts of physical activity. According to research (Fjortoft 2004; Burdette and Whitaker 2005), children who play outdoors regularly:
- Become fitter and leaner
- Develop stronger immune systems
- Have more active imaginations
- Have lower stress levels
- Play more creatively
- Demonstrate more respect for themselves and others.
The benefits of outdoor play are especially important in early childhood. When children engage in unstructured outdoor play in natural environments, they typically engage in moderately energetic activity – the type of activity that is particularly important for health and fitness.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis believes in the importance of outdoor play, which is one of the reasons why it is creating an immersive outdoor and indoor family, health, fitness and sports experience called Riley Children’s Sports Legends Experience. The museum partnered with a nationwide authority, Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.
The new 7.5-acre park will open in spring 2018 and will be one of the first ever family-friendly venues for participatory health and fitness. It will offer families the opportunity to participate in intergenerational family fitness activities and sports. Some of the sports featured will include football, basketball, racing, golf and tennis. As the name implies, there will also be a number of sports legends featured to serve as inspiration.
In the meantime, let’s all take advantage of these sunshine-filled days and join our children outdoors to have some fun and PLAY!