When my son started showing interest in reading about science, we subscribed to Science News. I remember as a kid I would read pretty much anything that was sitting in front of me, so I read unlikely-but-interesting things like Johnny Got His Gun, I’m Ok You’re Ok and The Sensuous Woman. So I thought it’d be great to just sort of have Science News around the house.
It turns out that kids who grow up with iPads don’t read magazines. I was the only person reading the magazine. When I found a good article I’d tell my son and he’d say, “What’s the website?”
I realized I love the magazine when I noticed the subscription was about to run out, and I couldn’t bear it: I sent more money.
So, I could talk about all the great stuff I’ve found in there, like a sound map of the US. But instead I’m going to tell you about the one that shows which environments most effectively encourage kids to run and play. It turns out scientists have studied this question and, hold onto your hats: kids like grass and jungle gyms, and boys like to run around more than girls.
What surprised me about the findings is how Science News summed it up: School provide kids with the majority of their recreational time, so schools should solve the problem of how to design playgrounds so kids use their recreational time.
My first thought was that you could spin that a different way: schools trap kids inside, so if you want to reduce a child’s sedentary lifestyle you should take the kid out of school.
(It turns out the bias toward keeping kids in schools is in the research as well.)
Why not talk about the amazing playgrounds municipalities are building? Chicago just unveiled a new playground in Millennium Park. The ropes and slides and swings are all surprising and inspiring and my kids played for an hour.
There are plenty of other ways to spend money for playgrounds besides giving the money to schools. And there are plenty of other ways to get kids outside besides locking them up for eight hours a day. We are on a treadmill where we lock kids up, then have no choice but to invest in the lockup, and then when we need kids to be able to think freely instead of thinking of freeing them, we look for ways to sneak in running around while they’re locked up.
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