Find Time to Play

I don’t often salute children’s television, but one network is planning something that got my attention. My interest has nothing to do with what’s going to air. It’s what won’t air that’s notable. Nickelodeon and its affiliated channels and websites are going “dark” for three hours Sept. 24. Why? To encourage kids to go outside and play. Nickelodeon is spearheading its eighth annual Worldwide Day of Play that day.

The timing couldn’t be better; Sept. 24 is also always the first day of Take a Child Outside Week, which encourages adults to help children better understand and appreciate the environment where they live by going outside together and engaging in activities. The initiative originated here in the Triangle with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, but the effort is nationwide with activities and partners in all 50 states. Visit the website www.takeachildoutside.org and make a pledge to go outside with a child, get ideas for outdoor activities and find participating organizations.

The focus of these efforts – the Worldwide Day of Play and Take a Child Outside Week – is to encourage children’s healthy development. Playing is actually critical for kids, according to research included in the article on page 59, “10 Reasons to Encourage Play.” I knew active play could help prevent obesity and teach social skills, but some of the 10 reasons free play should be placed at a premium surprised me.

Seems to me playing, and spending time outdoors, must be good for adults, too. In fact Richard Louv’s newest book, The Nature Principle, focuses on why it’s important for everyone to get outside, adults included. (His previous book, Last Child in the Woods, includes strong reasons as to why it’s important for kids to specifically play and spend time outdoors.)

If only we had the time, right? There never seems to be enough hours – or energy. Making the most of your time at work is one way to reclaim hours that disappear at the end of the day for working parents. For help with this challenge, we asked local experts for tips on how to leave the office on time while still accomplishing everything you need to do for your job (page 43).

Companies that support a healthy work-life balance through programs, benefits and workplace culture can help alleviate some of the stress that comes from trying to do it all, all the time, at work and at home. In essence, they help employees be more effective. Beginning on page 25 of this issue we recognize 50 companies in North Carolina that do just that. Many also support playtime, through picnics and other special events, and even make it part of the workplace culture.

In addition to coverage in our special work-family balance section, the annual N.C. Family-Friendly 50 companies are also profiled online at www.ncfamilyfriendly.com and will be recognized at our Women@Work Breakfast Sept. 29. Join us for some networking and laughter – an excellent stress-reliever – with motivational speaker, comedian and author Kelly Swanson. (Find out more about her on page 49.)

It’s easy for parents to overlook their own needs. But finding time to play, spend time outdoors and nurture our children is good for both our kids and ourselves. It also helps us be our authentic selves. (For insight about how being your true self can boost your career, turn to page 47.)

Finding that balance between work and family activities helps us stay energized, productive, happy and healthy. And in the process you might just discover – or rediscover – simple joys with your kids when the TV is off and you head outdoors to play!

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