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Positive Parenting – Let kids be kids!


In my 20 odd years of experience as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, I have seen kids with a wide array of disabilities. Sadly, most of these kids are born with these disabilities, like Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome etc. However in the recent past, I’ve seen a huge spike in disorders, which unlike congenital in nature, I am increasingly seeing kids with Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorders, Hyperactivity, Behavioural and Social Dysfunctions to name a few. What could be the reason/s for this growing endemic?


As far as I can tell, our priorities seem to be rather misplaced. On top of an already exhausting school curriculum, kids often find them self having to go to music classes, guitar/piano classes, language classes and the list goes on. The sad reality in all of this is, the critical element of health and well being is often neglected.

It finally took a pandemic to slow things down and yet this blessing in disguise has turned into a full blown house arrest. It is already well established that overly restricting children’s ability to play and move, leads to decreased attention, trouble regulating emotions, an increase in sensory issues and difficulty learning. Sadly, instead of celebrating this freedom, children are locked into an even stricter environment that allows for little to no social interaction, play and movement. Is this the best one can do? Is it truly “healthy?


Time, space and outdoor play are essential to children’s health. In fact, they’ll need this more than ever before. There is growing research, which indicates that children’s emotional health is suffering in the lock down and it seems likely that this suffering will, in many cases, continue into the long term. Children need healthy social interaction, ample play and outdoor activities to enable them a safe refuge away from the fears of the world, which seems to be plaguing us all.


keeping children isolated and restricted from playing with others for

too much longer is both unrealistic and harmful.


Outdoor play is incredibly therapeutic. When children step outdoors, it is naturally calming and helps regulate and organize the senses. It also serves to challenge and advance various skills that you just cannot replicate in a closed environment. In a time of crisis, it would be wise to take advantage of nature’s unique assets.


Time outside also helps build the immune system, something that is also becoming a priority.


Research is showing that kids are spending at least nine hours a day on average on some kind of screen. If they're spending that much time on technology, it's replacing their time to play outdoors, where they're digging in the dirt, strengthening their muscles, engaging and organizing the senses. It's bound to have an effect on their development in a pretty profound way.


The Proprioceptive System

Another sense that's being affected is the proprioceptive system. These are the senses in the joints and muscles. The proprioceptive system helps children know where their limbs are in space. It also helps them to know how much force to use when playing games, which teaches them how much force/resistance to use to jump and run or push/pull/squeeze etc. Without adequate outdoor activities or play in general, kids will have trouble with knowing how much force/resistance to use.


This leads to difficulties with gross/fine motor skills causing clumsy or uncoordinated movement, leading to problems with simple tasks such as dressing, walking or small movements of the hand and fingers that allow a child to write and draw, as well as manipulate buttons, zips and shoelaces.



Nature is the Ultimate Sensory Experience

Another thing to keep in mind is that nature is the ultimate sensory experience provider. When we are outdoors, multiple senses are engaged at once. We feel the breeze grazing us, warmth of the sunshine beating on us, feel the temperature outside, and maybe even off the ground. The ground outside is uneven, so it's challenging the senses, whereas inside, it's flat, and you really don't have to think about it very much. Multiple senses are engaged outside. The more senses that are engaged, the more synapses that are firing in the brain. Our chances of sensory integration and organization are going to be higher outdoors than inside, so it only makes sense to let kid spend as much time as possible outdoors to develop their senses.


It's important to think about what percentage of the time children are in an environment that is conducive to the organization of the brain and what percentage of the time are they in an environment that is disorganizing.


So, lets support our Kids to be, well just that, KIDS!


- Jignasha Bhatt BSc.OT, OTR


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