Play – it’s just what the Doctor ordered

Have you heard about “Outdoors Rx,” a pilot program from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston? It’s a truly brilliant concept and one that can be emulated across the country.

I first heard about the program while listening to NPR’s “The Take Away.” It was started to promote better health for children and to help ward off chronic illness. Outdoors Rx helps children by training pediatricians to write prescriptions for participation in outdoor activities with the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Brushing your teeth and flossing twice a day helps improve dental health. Kids know that because it’s repeated to them every morning and night. We may need to do the same with play. Did you brush your teeth, eat your vegetables and play outside today?Sure, it’s a sad state of affairs when a doctor has to intervene and remind children to play. It certainly adds shock value (and gets media attention) when the reminder comes in the form of a prescription! However, unlike other prescriptions, the side affects of outdoor play are ALL positive. Cognitive, social, creative, physical and emotional benefits are all closely linked with outdoor unstructured free play.

As a dad and creative director at Playworld Systems, I can only hope that other states follow Massachusetts to reinforce the importance of outdoor play.  Eventually we’ll get to a place where this is once again innate and not something children need to be reminded to do. As a kid, I was never asked, “Did you play today?” Yet I find myself having to encourage and coax my two boys to go outside and do just that on a regular basis.

Fortunately parents don’t need a medical degree to extend this important directive to their children.

So did you get outside and play today?

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