photo: Support PDX via Flickr

Getting kids unglued from screens and playing outside isn’t always an easy task, but the benefits of spending time outdoors are well worth the effort. One expert suggests kids should spend a minimum of three hours a day running, playing, and just plain being a kid outside.

Angela Hanscom is a pediatric occupational therapist and author of the bestselling book Balanced and Barefoot who recently started a therapeutic outdoor program for kids called TimberNook. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post Hanscom said, “Movement through active free play, especially outside, improves everything from creativity to academic success to emotional stability.” Hanscom says that, ideally, kids should be playing outside for three hours each day, not including organized sports.

So how on earth can most families fit in that much outdoor time between school, homework, and other after school activities? Hanscom says that school recess time should account for some of that time and believes schools should lengthen recess. In the meanwhile, just squeeze in as much time as you can.

Hanscom does have a few suggestions on how to make the most of whatever outside time you can manage. For example, she suggests leaving them to their own means of entertainment. “There’s so much value in kids creating play schemes on their own. Kids who are always told how to play have trouble thinking outside the box, and even answering freeform essay questions. Plus, true outdoor free play is like cross training, with the climbing, spinning, going upside down, and the like that adults don’t encourage but that are so valuable for their development,” she explains.

How much time do your kids spend playing outdoors every day? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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