Turning over rocks, making daisy chains and digging a hole to
China. Sounds like a perfect day of outdoor play. And it probably
was the way many parents spent their childhood summers. But fewer
children have that same luxury today-either from fear or because
the demands of full--time work schedules leave little time for
"Even as a casual observer, you notice that children are not out
as often," says Rhonda Clements, president of the American
Association for the Child's Right to Play and professor of physical
education at Hofstra University in New York. She collaborated with
Wisk Laundry Detergent to survey 830 mothers about their views on
outdoor play. Most mothers say their children would rather stay
inside watching TV or playing on the computer. When kids do venture
outside, moms say they fear for their kids' safety.
Clements says preventing kids from playing outside could have
detrimental long--term effects.
"[Being] outdoors stimulates the imagination and creativity and
gives [children] a sense of freedom and independence," she
For Lincoln Park resident Christine Ott--Shaw, whose
6--year--old son, Liam, has a penchant for parks, the unknown
danger makes her reluctant to let her son go out without
"I think [outdoor] play is really important for [a child's]
development," Ott--Shaw says. "[But] I wouldn't feel any safer in
the suburbs or the city, given the way world is."
Kidnappings and other reports of child endangerment make the
decision to let children play outside more complicated, says Hilary
Richardson, an Evanston mother of three.
"There's no way I would let my daughter and her friends play
outside in the front because it's not a sheltered area," she says.
"It's not that I don't trust my kids-I don't trust other
Clements says parents should use outdoor play as a time to watch
how a child relates to the space around her and whether she puts
any safety measures in place for herself and her playmates.
Then use that knowledge to explain what she should do to protect
herself. This helps her be more aware of possible dangers and more
able to predict consequences of her actions, she says.
From July 11--13, Wisk Laundry Detergent is sponsoring a play
day outdoors on the grass at Gateway Park, located at the entrance
of Navy Pier. For more information, call Navy Pier at (312)
595--PIER or visit www.wiskplayday.com.
--Shweta Govindarajan, Medill News Service
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