21 surprising reasons you should tell your kids to go out and play today.
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Nike's Made to Play

If you've ever watched kids on a playground running around and laughing, you might think they’re just having a great time.

It's hard to imagine that something so fun could help them succeed at the more serious life stuff. But that is, in fact, exactly what playtime is doing.

Research has actually proven time and time again that regular play is integral to kids' success in school, social situations, and, eventually, the careers that they choose to pursue.


So the next time you see kids giggling while they hang on jungle gyms or dig around in a sandbox, you might not want to just write it off as silliness — they're actually learning the fundamentals of adult behavior.

All photos via Nike.

In honor of June 21 — the longest day of the year — here are 21 reasons you should encourage the kids in your life to play more this summer and all year long.

1. Kids aren't made to sit still. They're made to play.

Human kids are born with a natural desire to play, and it helps them learn important skills. That said, today's kids are way less active than their parents and generations were before them. However, if you give the kids in your life the opportunity to play, you're doing your part to help reverse this unhealthy trend.

2. Playing helps kids stay active, and active kids do better in school.

Active kids tend to have increased concentration, go to school more regularly, and are usually better behaved once they get there. In fact, studies suggest that they’re noticeably more attentive and less distracted right after an active play session.

So in a way, encouraging play is just as useful as paying extra for a tutor, if not more so.

3. They’re also more well-adjusted overall.

Kids who play regularly tend to have healthier eating habits and more confidence than inactive kids because they’re running on endorphins that boost mood and improve behavior.

Imagine, just by letting them go hog wild outside once a day, you might have the most well-adjusted kids on the block!

4. And play can give them a major mood boost.

Research suggests that being more physically active can improve a kid’s self-esteem, mood, and social interactions all at once. If your kid mopes around the house, complaining that they have nothing to do, why not seize the opportunity and send them outside?

5. Play encourages healthy brain development, especially in younger kids.

You know how little kids seem to create fantastical worlds every time they play? All that creative thinking is helping them expand their imaginations in a super productive way. It's like cognitive strength training — not only are they building up their dexterity and physical strength, but by interacting with other kids in this way, they're also establishing emotional strength.

6. And that emotional strength pays off down the line.

Did you know that emotionally intelligent people tend to be more successful? According to analysis by Egon Zehnder International, it’s one of the most common attributes of thriving senior executives. This is where that starts.  

7. Meanwhile, not playing could actually shorten kids’ lives.

According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the fourth-leading risk factor for death worldwide. However, so far, that stat doesn't seem to be scaring people enough to get kids moving. Hopefully this list will encourage some parents to start changing that!

8. The sitting epidemic is very real, especially in our country.

In America alone, physical activity in kids between the ages of 9 and 15 has dropped by 75%. What better reason is there to make use of the longest day of the year?

9. But American kids aren’t the only ones who are affected by inactivity.

According to the World Health Organization, 80% of 11- to 17-year-olds around the world fail to meet the minimum requirements of physical activity: 60 minutes a day. If the trend continues, your kids could live five years less than you.

10. And kids get a little less active every year.

Children are the most active at age 6, and then they tend to start slowing down. By the time they're 19, many kids are as sedentary as 60-year-olds, according to The Washington Post.

While this sounds scary, a little extra playtime now can reverse this trend.

11. That said, kids who start out active tend to stay active.

It’s pretty simple — starting such a habit at a young age is proven to help kids carry that habit with them into adulthood. And if they're active adults, odds are they'll encourage their kids to be active too — and just like that, you've started an extremely healthy chain reaction.

12. Child-driven play is also where kids learn skills they'll need as adults.

One of the biggest questions asked in job interviews is if you work well with others. That's not a skill you acquire in high school or college — it starts much earlier, on the playground. When left to their own devices, children develop the confidence they need to take control and make decisions. They also learn how to share, negotiate, and resolve conflicts in a diplomatic way.

13. Boys are twice as active as girls.

In fact, by the age of 14, girls drop out of team sports twice as often. Reasons for this include everything from a lack of athletic opportunities to social stigmas against sporty girls.

That’s why it’s so important to get girls moving early — so they’ll be more inclined to stay in the game down the road.

14. But when girls do stay active, it makes a huge difference.

Those who keep playing usually get giant doses of confidence and coping and decision-making skills. Simultaneously, risks of depression, stress, and other dangerous behaviors like eating disorders tend to drop off.

15. Plus, active girls tend to become successful women.

A 2015 study of 400 female C-suite executives found that over half of them played sports at a university level. What's more, Fortune found that over 80% of female Fortune 500 executives played a competitive sport at some time in their lives.

Can you see these powerhouses as little tikes on the blacktop during recess? They must've given every boy a run for their money.

16. That’s why it’s so important for them to have motivators they can look up to.

Research suggests that when girls have positive female role models in their lives, it sets them up for a better future. Unfortunately, in 2017 only 28% of youth coaches were female. If more women can be that role model for their kids, nieces, or kids in their neighborhood, they’ll be making a major impact on them.

17.  Regardless of gender, though, when it comes to test scores, active kids set the curve.

When regular play is part of a child's life, it can help them stay attentive and put focused energy into their studies. And there are stats to prove it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), students who are regularly active tend to have higher grade point averages and lower high school dropout rates. In fact, active kids have been shown to score up to 40% higher on tests than inactive kids.

18. Regular activity also gives your kid a better chance at a more successful career.

No matter what career path your 8-year-old chooses in the future, playing everyday now could give them the boost they need to land the job of their dreams. In fact, studies suggest physically active kids are 15% more likely to go to college and earn an average of 7-8% more money than an inactive kid.

19. What’s more, play is a great way for parents and kids to bond.

Kids learn games from their parents, and vice versa, which always makes for an incredibly adorable good time.

And, since school recess has been cut back, encouraging play is largely up to parents these days. Over the past two decades, schools across the country have cut down recess significantly — in some cases, entirely.

The more parents can motivate their kids to get moving outside of school, the more they'll counteract this unfortunate rollback.

20. But if parents get in the way of kid play too much, it can offset its benefits.

If you dictate how they should play, you might actually hinder all the positive effects playtime can have. Giving up that control might be hard, but it can also be a game changer in kids' development.

21. Play is so important that it is recognized by the United Nations as a fundamental human right.

Because the name suggests it's not productive time spent, it's easy to let playtime become a privilege or reward. But regular active play could be the difference between a happy, healthy, successful adult and one who struggles to get through the day.

If a prestigious, international organization like the U.N. understands that and puts its importance on par with food and shelter, it's time for parents and schools everywhere to pick up the play baton and run with it — and encourage their kids to do the same every day.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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