Stories about: playing outside

Can playing outside improve eyesight?

How big a role does sun light paly in strengthening young eyes?

As a kid, my mother was always shooing my brother and me outside to play. ‘Get outdoors and get some fresh air’ was more than a suggestion in the Underwood household—it was a parental mandate. The forced backyard time didn’t do much for my budding videogame skills, but it’s possible that it did wonders for my eyes.

Studies recently presented at a American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting suggests that kids who spend more time outdoors are less likely to suffer from myopia, also known as nearsightedness. Could playing outside really improve eyesight in kids?

For years outdoor play has been celebrated as a free and effective weapon in the war against childhood obesity, but it rarely gets much press as an eyesight enhancer. But according to a new analysis of eight eye health studies, which pools data on more than 10,400 children, there is a correlation between people who spend less time in the sun and nearsightedness.

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Playing it safe in the heat

How hot is the metal at your child's favorite playground?

Slides, seesaws and jungle gyms remind us of carefree childhood days, but as we get older, the allure of playgrounds becomes much less simple. These outdoor havens are great ways to encourage physical activity in kids, but strong summer heat can also cause them to become danger zones. Here, Lois Lee, MD, MPH, director of trauma research at Children’s Hospital Boston, breaks down summer playground safety and suggests ways to keep your outing safe.

Recent reports of children who have burned their hands and feet on hot playground gear underscore the need for shady spots in playgrounds. “Ideally, it would be great for kids to have access to shaded playgrounds to keep cool and out of the sun, but it’s not always realistic,” says Lee. She recommends making sure kids have sunscreen on their faces and bodies, dressing them in lightweight, protective clothing and keeping them out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun is most intense.

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Play harder: can Children's researchers quantify fun?

Is your child expending energy at recess, or hanging around?

What was school recess like when you were a child? Were your break periods 20 minutes of crazed playing, or did you mill around waiting for a bell to ring? If you played organized games, were they heavy in activity or did everyone line up and wait for a turn to kick a ball or shoot a basket?

For many of us, recess was lackadaisical and unstructured—a pleasant reprieve from math and reading—but did little in terms of burning calories or expending energy. But as childhood obesity rates continue to climb, many are calling for increased physical activity at school; recess seems like a logical place to start. In response, researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston’s Clinical Research Program and UMass Amherst are collecting data that could help teachers turn idle recess time into a high octane, fat-burning extravaganza.

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