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Kids need outside play time

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Summer vacation time is here. School is ending and the warm days of summer have officially begun. While kids just want to relax and do nothing, research shows that they need play time outside to maintain a healthy body and an active mind.

Outside play time can be freewheeling or organized through camps, sports, neighborhoods or friend visits. Whatever combination of activity plans parents choose, the benefits are many. Some reasons to visit parks and playgrounds are:

It is free. Kids' playground visits cost nothing but a short bike ride, walk or a hop in the car. Park playgrounds have maintained equipment, like large swing sets, that most people don’t have space for in their yards. Jungle gyms, rock walls, wooden climbing castles, slides, monkey bars, balance beams, spring horses and other structures are much more expansive that home play equipment.

Most playgrounds have swings for toddlers that will safely support them, and ones for older kids who can self-swing. They also have several sizes of slides. The variety is fun for kids and if there are several playgrounds in your area, kids will never tire of the differences from one to another.

Playground play gives kids socialization opportunities. They can meet old friends or make new ones, learn to play cooperatively with kids older and younger than they are, and let off steam just inventing silly games with peers.

Playgrounds give parents a chance to network, too. While supervising their children, parents can share information about activities, babysitters, and other interests. They can also make new adult friends who probably live nearby.

Playground play keeps growing bodies healthy. All the exercise strengthens growing muscles and the deep breathing of running and climbing improves overall health. Kids will tire out, too, so planning a playground rip just before nap time for little ones will give moms or dads some quiet time when returning home. Older kids can relax or read later, too.

Parks give kids the opportunity to explore, and get close to nature on a larger scale than the home yard. Varieties of trees, plants, birds and animals make learning fun. Duck ponds, streams and other water features help kids connect to life cycles and the ways of nature. Watching the antics of chipmunks or squirrels brings out laughter, too.

Parks are good for the environment. Playing outside eliminates driving all over, reducing air pollution. Trees and plants in green spaces like parks and playgrounds beautify urban and suburban areas and people using them appropriately show pride in their community. These areas are frequently home to afternoon or evening concerts, plays, festivals or other special events. Community leaders work hard to maintain and incorporate physical green spaces into the fabric of the community for all ages and interests of citizens.

No matter if a playground or park visit is in the day for unstructured fun, or evening for a planned event, pack a picnic or snacks, bring a blanket or some folding chairs, and enjoy. Don’t forget to take snapshots for a scrapbook or album, and record fun moments to share on social media.

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