According to an article published in Forbes, kids today spend an average time of seven hours a day holding mobile devices or in front of screens. This has resulted in a wide majority of children swapping their outdoor activities with screen time, which makes their lifestyle more sedentary. Not only does it affect their overall health but also their quality of life.
Like most parents, you may notice your kids passing over outdoor play to get more screen time. It has been unfortunate that mainstream and digital media and influential parents have all focused on decreasing kids’ outdoor activities for years by giving them gadgets to play with.
Thanks to commendable efforts by Michelle Obama, the former first lady of the US, to launch the “let’s move” campaign in 2010, many parents now realize the importance of physical activity for their kids and other family members. Many parents still, however, require awareness of why it is so essential to get their children outside.
Parents have no ill intentions toward their children. They want them to be physically and emotionally healthy individuals with a sense of compassion and independence. However, they sometimes fail to realize on time that taking their kids outside is one of the most essential things to achieve said goals.
In this article, we have discussed some incredible benefits of encouraging children to play outside, so read on.
Physical Benefits of Playing Outdoors
Outdoor play during preschool and elementary years develops physical strength, regulates body weight, and enhances immune functions in children. And the best part is that children engaging in physical activities are more likely to carry over into their adulthood with more developed fitness-related habits. This is because children taking part in outdoor activities get trained to consider physical activity as a vital habit to continue during the adulthood years.
Improved Balance and Coordination
Children who play outside develop agility, coordination, balance, and many other advanced motor skills. These children develop a particular likeness to move in a way that challenges their muscles, skeletal strength, and overall body endurance. During their play outdoors, they find room to walk, run, and flex their bodies.
A More Proportionate Body Mass Index
In the 1980s, only 7% of the kids in the USA were found to be obese. But after about three decades, one in every three children met the criteria for obesity. This is because children today eat more and move less than children a few decades back.
Children who play outside more than others are less likely to become obese due to their more active lifestyle. Instead of sitting in front of the TV and computer for hours, they like to play outside and consume calories to remain in good shape.
Better Overall Health
Playing outside and preventing weight gain delivers numerous health benefits to your child. For instance, obese children are more likely to develop health conditions like sleep apnea, asthma, and, in later years of life, heart disease and diabetes. On the other hand, spending time in the sunlight and moving around enhances your child’s mood and strengthens their immune system. Outdoor activity can even benefit children with ADHD.
Vitamin D is called ‘sunshine vitamin’ because your body gets a lot of it when you are outside in the sun. Children usually need more vitamin D than they get from their diet, so letting them play outside allows them to get an optimum supply of this essential nutrient. All you have to do is to take your children out on a sunny day and let them play.
Several outdoor activities develop muscular strength in your kids. For example, swinging is one of the most common outdoor activities. This play engages your kid’s muscles that help them to sit up and hold on. Although this activity seems more repetitive, it is like an optimum fitness workout for kids. Several other sports, like riding toy bikes, skateboards, and scooters also encourage muscular strength in kids.
Emotional and Mental Benefits of Playing Outdoors
Research conducted at the Open University’s OPENspace Research Centre finds considerable evidence suggesting a strong correlation between playing outdoors and increased life expectancy, reduced symptoms of depression, improved well-being, and enhanced ability to perform in school.
Children who regularly play outside are better able to focus and learn, improve their behavior, increase productivity, and maintain healthy relationships.
This is because the outdoors is where children can be themselves at best. It allows them to vent their excitement by escaping from a more restrictive, quiet environment usually present at homes and schools.
Here is a brief explanation of the mental and emotional benefits of playing outdoors for children.
Reduced Anxiety and Stress
The way outdoor play helps reduce stress and anxiety in children has been established well in the study of biology. Outdoor activities allow children to get more sunlight, which helps them get more vitamin D. This helps release an optimal amount of serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter linked with happiness and depression relief. Vitamin D deficiency prevents this neurotransmitter from being released, raising the risk of anxiety and depression.
Playing outdoors also helps reduce cortisol levels, a hormone that may trigger the feeling of stress and anxiety. Since children are more vulnerable to getting anxious due to flashing screens, academic pressure, and busier routines, getting them outside can help them remain happy and emotionally healthy.
Better Mood and Self-Esteem
Outdoor play allows children to get in touch with nature. When they are outside, they get to deal with natural materials, and that fuels their sense of creativity. Taking your children outdoors and letting them have some unstructured time to play invokes high-level thinking, which enhances their problem-solving skills. Not only does this improve their overall mood, but they also become more confident individuals. It also undoes the harmful effects of their everyday exposure to stressful environments.
Improved Memory And Concentration
Taking your children outside and encouraging them to play not only engages them physically but also gives them a good amount of mental workouts. Physical movement influences their hippocampus positively, improving their ability to learn and memorize things. Outdoor play also enhances their ability to pay attention to detailed information and improve focus on any given task.
Social Benefits of Outdoor Play
Not only does outdoor play helps children become physically and mentally healthy, but it also allows them to develop their social skills. Children, when playing outside, love to interact with their peers. This develops cooperation, empathy, and friendship among children, and they learn the importance of teamwork for success.
Here are the notable social advantages of playing outdoors.
Communication and problem-solving skills
Playing outdoors not only helps children improve their deep-thinking abilities individually, but they also learn to communicate to solve problems. For instance, figuring out how to fix that cubby house or stabilize a small structure requires deep thinking as well as cooperation. Moreover, soccer and other team sports necessitate each player to coordinate and act accordingly. When children engage in such activities, they try to figure out solutions and improve their communication to make things work out.
Outdoor activities not only help kids become more self-aware but also develop positive feelings about others. As a result, they take good care of what others feel. According to studies, children who play outside frequently are less likely to become bullies in later years.
Again, it comes down to teamwork and imagination, both of which are necessary to develop positive interactions among children. Children who get to practice more tend to find common ground to get along with their peers.
Outdoor Play and Environmental Awareness
One of the necessary traits of a responsible individual is positive and respectful behavior toward the environment. Do you want to foster this behavior in your kids? All you have to do is to take them outside and let them interact with nature in the way they like.
According to a study, playing outdoors promotes love of the environment in children, and they grow up as more responsible individuals with a caring attitude towards nature. 84% of the respondents in this study said that preserving the environment was a priority.
Taking children outside more frequently encourages them to take ownership of their actions and develop a deeper appreciation of natural blessings. This helps them realize the importance of caring for plants and animals and not littering in the open.
You may also like to read: 7 Habits Of Happy Kids
Given the benefits it offers, taking your kids to the playgrounds is more like the responsibility of parents who want their children to be physically, mentally, socially, and intellectually healthy. Not only does outdoor play make your children better at academics, but they also grow up as better human beings with a progressive and positive mindset.