Did you play outside when you were a kid? Where did you play? Where were the adults?
Years ago, children spent most days outside from morning until dusk, and sometimes even after. They would make up games, climb trees, play cops and robbers and get dirty, often without an adult in sight! But, those days are long gone. In recent times, children have become less and less active and spend most of their time indoors. This is harming our children because they are less physically fit than children in the past, they are stressed out and anxious, have less real-life experience and poor problem solving skills.
How nature benefits children
Did you know that outdoor play offers more than a chance to “go blow off some steam?” Free play in nature offers many benefits for our children.
- Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies.
- Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.
- Being outside improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness.
- The microbes found in dirt and dirty things play a crucial role in training a child’s immune system to respond correctly, and to populate the good microflora in their gut.
- According to the “hygiene hypothesis,” early exposure to plants, animals and soil helps children’s immune systems to develop properly, making them less vulnerable to conditions like asthma and allergies.
- Research also demonstrates that natural, green settings are relaxing and calming for children and may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.
- School children who use playgrounds with trees, fields, and vegetation show more creative play, better concentration, and more inter-gender play than peers with equipment-focused playgrounds.
- Natural light from the sun regulates the body’s internal “sleep clock,” which makes children more alert during the day, and tired at night, improving sleep.
- Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
- Play protects children’s emotional development, while loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression.
- Nature play enhances social interactions, value for community and close relationships.
- Nature encourages creativity.
What more reason could you need to go outside and play?
Source: “Balanced and Barefoot,” by Angela J. Hanscom, 2016, New Harbinger.