School is starting, dusk is coming earlier, and people are starting to move inside. But don’t let these warm evenings get away too soon. There’s still plenty of time to get outdoors and be active at the end of the day. Especially for that time between school and homework, letting kids burn off a little steam can also help them concentrate better when it’s time to do homework. It can also help them sleep better. All of this can help improve overall performance in school. As the Latin expression goes: mens sane in corpore sano—a sound mind in a sound body.
Particularly when elementary schools are cutting back on recess and PE, kids, especially in the lower grades, have a lot of pent up energy. This translates into an inability to sit still in class and teachers being concerned that a more serious underlying problem is to blame. Few things make me more frustrated.
We are physical beings, and we’re meant to be physical. Over the years, I’ve spoken with many therapists and doctors who confirm that being physical releases chemicals in the system that help us to concentrate. We were not designed to be sedentary. And in our modern world, if kids store up all this energy from being quiet, and don’t use it; it’s going to have to come out. The famous “endorphin high” is not limited only to runners but all of us need to be physical to balance our energy, our brainpower and our emotions.
I was not an athletic kid in a traditional sports way, but I lived on my bike, climbed trees, explored the woods behind our house and playing games with the kids in the neighborhood. I probably got more exercise than friends who sat out Little League games. But the point is that it doesn’t matter what kids do, but that they do it. It’s far more natural for us to be bodies in motion, at least some of the time, than to be sedentary all the time.
So, as you come into these late summer afternoons and early evenings, encourage your kids to be active and get out and play. It will soon be a little chilly for water toys, but there are plenty of balls, blasters and other great ideas for you to check out in our outdoor toys section.
And, even if your kids are involved in after school activities, try to carve out some time for self-directed, open-ended play, particularly for the younger ones. A lot of activities are very focused on performance and achievement, and outdoor play gives kids a chance just to be kids. And why don’t you join them? You don’t grow out of your need to be physical just because you grew up, you know.