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Let the Kids Play


Dr. John De Noyelles, PT, OCS, CSCS

“Let the Kids Play” (#LETTHEKIDSPLAY) was a marketing campaign released by Major League Baseball to put a spotlight on its young superstars. It encouraged a fun but competitive, trash-talking, bragging atmosphere normally seen in sports such as basketball and football. Given that Major League Baseball is paused due this pandemic, it’s time to borrow the campaign and hashtag and use it for a significantly more important reason: we need to let OUR kids play.

Before this post reads as a lecture from an expert on kid play, activities and nutrition, please read the following disclaimer:

Disclaimer: I am not the perfect parent. My kids have had more screen time than ever before. I have gone from despising my son’s online game play on Xbox to appreciating the social interaction he gets with his friends. Given that my sweet and chatty 7-year-old daughter is away from her friends she has a lot to say and even more questions, prompting a one-day, five pushup rule for every question. She did a lot of pushups that day. We have sat and watched a lot of movies and consumed a good amount of popcorn and ice cream. Some of my “cook dinner” nights have contributed to the frozen pizza shortage. When helping my kids with math I frequently find myself saying, “Let me show you how I do it.”

That said…

In the past 2 months, kids have lost recess, physical education, sports, the playground and free play with friends. They have more sitting time for distance learning and screen time. Parents, many who still work, are now homeschool teachers and activity directors. My wife and I put my kids through 2-3 intense workouts a week, play basketball and baseball, go for hikes, and ride bikes. And yet it’s still not enough. I can see some “rust” in movements and endurance. 

Kids are missing free play. Structureless and joyful free play. There was a time you did this. You ran around the schoolyard, neighborhoods or playground. It was all without feeling exhausted because you were having fun. Due to closures and social distancing, it’s time you returned to this for the sake of your kids. Tag, hide and seek with a chase component, challenge workouts, dancing and racing are all examples. Kids love goofiness and spontaneity. Parents and guardians… it’s time to get goofy and spontaneous. Have some fun. Put yourself in your kids’ shoes. You and your kids will love it. It is okay to laugh and have fun right now for the sake of the generation that has no control over what is happening and yet will be left with the results.

Sure, there will be some sprained ankles and strained hamstrings. Hips will tighten and low backs will bark. We can help with those (#shamlessplug). Kids need to play. To a greater extent, and not to start a health and political discussion, kids need to return to their normal. #LETTHEKIDSPLAY should take on a new, exceedingly more important meaning and representation. Spread the word: #LETTHEKIDSPLAY.


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