Archive for April, 2015

Free Range Kids

Monday, April 20th, 2015

By Jon Kahney, MS, CSCS

After seeing this story on WGN Morning News, it really caught my attention and I began following it for more details. The more I watched, the angrier I got. These kids were walking from a playground to their home a mile away. When they didn’t arrive at the agreed upon time of 6pm, their parents panicked and frantically began searching for them. A full two hours later at 8 pm, the parents were notified that the children had been picked up at 6 pm by the Maryland DCFS, and the parents were going to be investigated for child neglect.

If you’re wondering why I’m angry, it is because if letting your kids walk a mile without an adult is child neglect, I must have the worst mother in the entire world!* When I was a child, I walked to school every day and refused to take the bus. When I did take the bus, I don’t recall one single time my mother waited, holding my hand, at the bus stop. Even if she would have offered, I wouldn’t have let her because I needed to look “cool” in front of the other kids. From third to fifth grade, I walked or rode my bike about five miles, by myself, to school. In our neighborhood, all of the kids played freely, without adult supervision, throughout the neighborhood. Our parents had a general idea of where we were and all were expected to be home for dinner at a set time. I ran, climbed, crawled, jumped, and played games all over the area, by myself or with other kids, and without supervision.

We lived nearby a private girls’ school with a large campus and on the side farthest from our house there was a duck pond. I loved to visit the pond and feed the ducks. One day I set out with a loaf of bread under my arm and headed down to feed the ducks. About half way to the pond, I was forcefully stopped by a woman I didn’t know, who angrily demanded to know where I lived and what my mother’s name was, but never even asked what I was doing. She grabbed me by the arm, horrifying me, and dragged me kicking and screaming back to my home, where she berated my mom, calling her a horrible mother and accused her of being neglectful. My mother, to this day over 37 years later, still remembers how awful this women made her feel for being a “horrible” parent. If raising your kids to be a college professor, a partner and attorney in the largest law firm in Indiana, a youth fitness expert, and being the grandmother of four smart, beautiful granddaughters, is neglectful parenting, then Mom, you are the worst!*

Over time the pendulum between unrestricted play and supervised play always seems to swing forcefully to one side or the other, but never settles in the middle. When I grew up, free play, without adult supervision, was encouraged and expected. Today it has swung to the side where everything must be regulated, coached, and supervised. There are merits of both sides. Unsupervised free play opens kids up to dangers from outsiders or getting hurt. Always being supervised and safe, blocks your kids from naturally developing physically and socially.

The human body is incredibly smart and aids in its own development. To understand this all you need to do is watch a baby learn how to stand and eventually how to walk. There is no instruction; it is instinctive. According to the International Youth Conditioning Association, kids from 5-10 have a developmental window called a Critical Period where they must learn many new physical skills, on their own, through play. Always being supervised and kept safe robs kids of the opportunity to learn new skills, learn from mistakes, and delays their development. As Bruce Wayne’s father said, “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” If you never let your child fall…

Encourage your kids to play, but set some guidelines for their general safety. Here are some examples that might help.

1. Establish a structured time frame where play is allowed followed by a structured time frame where chores and school work must be done. Research shows that kids who perform cardiovascular activity have higher academic performance (Journal of School Health, Dec. 2011).

2. Discuss a plan with your kid that defines who is a stranger and how to deal with an encounter from a stranger. Today many kids have cell phones. Practice and role play different situations they may encounter. Clearly define who is considered to be dangerous. It will help them develop a sense of good judgment for situations later in life like dealing with peer pressure.

3. Encourage them to play with other neighborhood kids. They will learn social skills and will look out for each other if a dangerous situation arises.

4. Establish a safe neighbor adult contact in case you aren’t around. Make it someone trusted they can go to if someone is injured or if there is a dangerous situation.

Please remember that kids need to be kids and play is part of their natural development. They must be allowed to grow, function, thrive, and survive in their environment. They have plenty of time to be adults later in life.

* I love you Mom! Happy Mother’s Day! (From Jon)


5 Quick Tips for Health and Wellness: Great ways to start your day!

Monday, April 13th, 2015

And here is another edition of, “5 Quick Tips For Health and Wellness”. Today our series will continue with 5 great days to start your day!

1. When you get up, first thing in the morning, start off with some basic stretching at home (focus on arm, legs and core).
2. If you’re feeling adventurous and have more time to devote, try a morning yoga class to start your day.
3. A foam roller is a good way to start your day. For those who have a specific area to focus on, great to smooth out muscles in your legs and back this works best.
4. Cardio! It might be hard for some people, but it a great way to start your blood pumping for the day, even if it’s a short 20 minute power walk with your dog.
5. A healthy breakfast. Exercise is only good if you put good fuel in your body. Lean protein, egg whites, oatmeal and fruits are all a great way to get your day started.

Those are your 5 tips for the day! Enjoy them, share then, and tune in for next week’s addition of 5 Quick Tips.