In our modern electronic age, many kids forego playing outside for video games and other indoor pastimes. There are many reasons kids should play outside. In addition to being fun, playing outside increases the physical and mental health of children. Read on for the physical and mental health benefits of playing outside.
Physical Benefits of Playing Outside
- Playing Outside Improves Physical Fitness: Childhood obesity has increased dramatically in the last twenty years. When children play outdoors, they run, climb, and jump. Additionally, outdoor activities such as swimming and sports provide strength training and aerobic exercise. These activities help prevent obesity, strengthen the immune system, and provide protection against osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes. Your children should get at least one hour of moderate to vigorous outdoor activity each day.
- Playing Outside Provides Vitamin D: According to the American Academy of Paediatrics many kids suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Part of the reason is the decrease in outside play as vitamin D comes naturally from sunlight. Vitamin D has several health benefits. It prevents future bone problems, diabetes, and heart disease. Unfortunately, sunscreen blocks out vitamin D. However, youcan let your kids play outside for a limited amount of time without it. You may need to feed your children foods containing vitamin D or use supplements to assure your children get enough of this vitamin.
- Playing Outside Improves Vision: A study by Optometry and Vision Science reported that children who spend time outside have better distance vision than children who primarily play indoors.
Mental Benefits of Playing Outside:
- Playing Outside Increases Attention Span. Studies have shown that green settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms. Additionally, children who play outdoors appear to have a higher attention span and display more self-direction, engaging in activities and investigating their environment.
- Playing Outside Improves Intellectual Development: Unstructured outdoor play provides intellectual stimulation and appears to help children focus better in the classroom. Additionally, outdoor play encourages problem-solving skills, encourages learning, and promotes creativity.
- Playing Outside Decreases Stress: Stress, depression, and anxiety are becoming more common for children and playing outside helps reduce kids’ stress. Children’s busy schedules with school and extracurricular activities put increased pressure on kids. Physical activity in the form of unorganized outdoor play can help reduce this stress. Contact with nature can positively impact conditions such as anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and help reduce stress.
In addition to these physical and mental benefits,when children play with other children outdoors, it encourages social development. Play gives children opportunities to learn how to:
- Work in groups
- Resolve conflicts
- Overcome challenges
Additionally, playing with others helps promote:
- Leadership skills
- Healthy relationships
Many of us spent our childhood outside riding our bikes and playing games such as hide-and-seek, hopscotch, and baseball. Unstructured outdoor play is critical to both the physical and mental health of your children. Since it is time for summer fun, the health benefits of playing outside can be easily given to your children.