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Encouraging More Play

I'm Barry Petersen, and this Letter From Asia comes from Tokyo.

Japan prides itself on being one of the world's most advanced technological societies. Which is why this story caught our attention. It's about how Japan's technology is literally changing its kids.

Kids like 4-year-old Mukuru trying to do a somersault. But he can't figure out how. 3-year-old Meika has the same problem.

How about the broad jump? Five year old Kanako jumps and lands. Ouch!

Okay. How about bouncing a ball? An amazing 12 out of 15 kids were unable to bounce the ball at all. And not one of the 15 could bounce the ball twice.

Indeed Japan Ministry for Sports and Education says the athletic abilities of children peaked in 1985 and have declined every year since then.

I'd be willing to bet most Moms know where this story is going...and why.

The answer, the why, is because kids in Japan, as in the United States, love to play, but they play video games. That means less time outside, less time with other kids.

Playing in the virtual world may be good for the brain and developing mental reflexes. But it does nothing for coordination and athletic skills we once took for granted in kids. Think about it - kids who can't even bounce a ball.

The answer, of course, is as simple as what's causing the problem.

Let kids do what they've always done, play together. Indeed, here in Japan they don't call this a gym class but a play class.

The kids have fun, and they don't even know that, like broccoli, it's good for them.

One mom told me, "My daughter plays indoors a lot. I know if she plays outside more, she would be more active."

So from Japan, a sign of our times - that something so normal as kids play is now something that needs to be encouraged, even monitored, to make sure it happens.

The question is - will grownups be smart enough to get their kids away from the video games and onto the playground, be smart enough to let kids be kids.
by Barry Petersen