Having a Blast in their Own Zone

Kids today spend a lot of time inside with computers and television.

And much of their outdoor time is spent in structured activities with lots of rules and boundaries. In our hectic society, we sometimes forget the value of simply playing outside. Sound frivolous? It’s not. “From the moment children leave the house, they’re being supervised by one person or another,” says Joanne Oppenheim, an authority on child development and education, and co-author of The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. The result? “They lose their ability to entertain themselves, to give and take, to play imaginative games or just sit with a friend and be silly.”

Freedom From Rules

Kids need activities with no winners or losers. It’s good for them to throw themselves into free-spirited fun and to be free from pressure to conform to rules set by adults.

Fresh Air and Room to Move

Fresh air gives kids (and parents) a sense of space and relaxation, and helps reduce stress.

Give and Take

Kids can compromise with each other, when given the chance. After all, it’s one thing to have you telling them to play nice; it’s quite another to face a lonely afternoon if they can’t get along with a friend. It helps grow interpersonal skills needed for life.

Take a Back Seat

Your role as a parent is to provide the opportunity for wonderful outdoor things to happen. Give your kids plenty of chances to play in an inviting outdoor space, whether it’s a yard or even a porch. Keep snacks nearby for refueling and enough play gear for everyone. Of course, parents need to supervise for safety, based on your neighborhood and your child’s maturity level, without jumping in too often. But let your kids do some of the negotiating, struggling and problem-solving. Rescuing your kids in front of their peers robs them of the chance to test their own techniques. It also sends the message that they’re weak. Instead of intervening every time there’s a problem, it’s better to let your kids come to you when they want comfort and support.

“You can teach your kids to solve their own problems,” says Michele Borba, author of Don’t Give Me That Attitude: 24 Rude, Insensitive, Selfish Things Kids Do and How to Stop Them. Even a 2-year-old can learn to share.

Help kids remember these steps when they sense an argument brewing: Stop, Think, Consider Your Options, and Make a Plan.