Be Our Voice Blog

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Making the "Go Outside and Play" Prescription Possible

Posted by: Kristi Fossum Jones, MPH

As the weather gets warmer and spring arrives, pediatric care providers and healthcare professional advocates like to tell patients and families to “go outside and play!”

Play—especially free and unstructured play—is vital to kids’ healthy development physically, socially, and emotionally. And the fact that playtime offers physical health benefits is of particular relevance for healthcare professional advocates fighting childhood obesity. According to a clinical report published in the January 2012 issue of Pediatrics, “Play enhances physical health by building active, healthy bodies. Physical activity beginning in early childhood prevents obesity. In fact, play may be an exceptional way to increase physical activity levels in children and, therefore, may be included as an important strategy in addressing the obesity epidemic.1

Another reason why “go outside and play!” is good health advice has to do with the “go outside” part. According to the CDC, kids ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using electronic media (e.g. TV, computers, video games, etc.) and 83% of kids six months to six years watch almost 2 hours of TV/videos per day. This sedentary time contributes to childhood obesity.2 In contrast, when kids are outside, they’re usually active doing things like riding bikes, swinging, playing sports, etc.

So clearly “go outside and play!” is good health advice, but sometimes it’s not that simple for families and kids to follow through. Too many kids and families live in areas where going outside isn’t safe, there aren’t any good outdoor play areas nearby, or they can’t afford outdoor recreation programs.

This is where advocacy comes into play! There are many ways in which pediatric care providers and other healthcare professionals can advocate for more and better outdoor play and exercise options for kids and families. Below are resources that may be useful.

Now get out there and start playing!

Connect Children and Families with Nature

Program: Children and Nature Initiative
Organization: National Environmental Education Foundation
Website: Click Here
Description: Training for healthcare providers on “prescribing nature” and on connecting families to natural areas.

Program: Grow Outside: Tools and Resources for Pediatricians
Organization: Children and Nature Networks
Website: Click Here
Description: Links to “nature prescriptions” and sample educational materials, plus information for pediatricians.

Create Affordable, Accessible Outdoor Play/Exercise Options

Organization: KaBoom!
Website: Click Here
Description: A national organization that helps communities build playgrounds.

Program: RecreationRx
Organization: San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department
Website: Click Here
Description: A California program that allows doctors to prescribe recreation and link patients to low-cost recreation options.

Program: Portland Play
Organization: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
Website: Click Here
Description: A program in the greater Portland metropolitan area that enables pediatricians to connect families with parks and recreation programs.

Program: Make Way for Play
Organization: Healthy Places (an initiative of Healthy Chicago)
Website: Click Here
Description: A Chicago collaborative program striving to make parks more accessible to local residents.

Program: Park Prescriptions
Organization: Institute at the Golden Gate
Website: Click Here
Description: A movement to create a healthier population by strengthening the connection between the healthcare system and public lands across the country.

Advocate for Outdoor Safety

Program: Walking School Bus
Organization: Partnership for a Walkable America
Website: Click Here
Description: This program promotes kids walking and biking safely to school with parents or other adults supervising.

Program: Bicycle Helmet Program
Organization: Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
Website: Click Here
Description: Information on how to create and implement bicycle helmet programs, providing affordable helmets to patients.

Program: Interactive Demonstrations of Safe Play Areas
Organization: National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety
Website: Click Here
Description: For those in rural areas, safe play area demonstrations for farm families can promote active, safe outdoor play areas for kids. This guide outlines how to hold demonstrations.

Program: Safe at Play
Organization: Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Chicago
Website: Click Here
Description: This group, based at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, helps community organizations build and renovate playgrounds. The coalition is also involved in evaluating playground safety, through playground safety checks and other activities.


  1. Ginsburg KR, Milteer RM, et al. “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on Children in Poverty.” Pediatrics Vol. 129 No. 1, January 1, 2012, pp. e204 -e213.

  2. CDC Overweight and Obesity. “Childhood Overweight and Obesity: A Growing Problem.”

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Healthy Kids  General Childhood Obesity