Playing outside is a blast – there’s no doubt about it. But don’t mistake this outdoors playtime as just playtime. Kids actually benefit a lot from time spend in the wild (wild being a relative term here).
Time outdoors leads to healthy and balanced kids – active play outdoors helps reduce obesity. Being in natural environments has real concrete health benefits – for example, kids get more Vitamin D (from the sun) which helps safeguard against heart disease and diabetes.
Being able to play in nature helps increase motor skills. When kids play, even in larger areas like playgrounds, they’re hemmed in by walls and fences. Giving your kid the opportunity to play in a truly boundless environment gives them ample room to develop their motor skills – on a grassy plain, a kid can do almost anything without getting seriously hurt – they can run and jump, do cartwheels, try flips – the same can’t be said about concrete. Outdoor environments are places where kids can learn their physical limitations without endangering themselves. Climbing and running improve strength and speed, and rolling around in the dirt and touching plants and flowers. can help their immune systems get used to dealing with unexpected threats.
Kids also get stimulation from new colors and shapes, and mother nature does not lack for these. We live in a world primarily made up of squares and rectangles – our TVs, phones, books, and even our houses are just differently sized rectangles of one kind or another. Mother nature offers an almost infinite variety of things to see, smell, touch and hear. Studies show that kids that went on 20 minute walks prior to taking tests did better.
Being outdoors is also a form of learning in itself – kids nowadays are used to associating learning with sitting in a room and reading or writing or listening. Being in the great outdoors is a form of active learning – they can experience first hand the wondrous nature of the world and take lessons from that.
In outdoor environments, kids can be themselves! They don’t need to ‘keep quiet’ or ‘behave’ or ‘stop running around’ or ‘sit still’. They can be as loud and as wild as they want! There are VERY few places in our constructed, concrete world that allow for that. Kids that get to act out in the wild are also less likely to misbehave at home.
Kids that spend a lot of time outdoors will also learn to respect mother nature – they’ll see firsthand the impact that pollution and littering can have – and this in turn can help them develop into conscientious, environmentally aware adults.
There’s really no reason not to let your kid play in the outdoors – it’s one of the healthiest, most fun, most active forms of play. Studies have shown again and again that kids that spend significant time in the wild have better outcomes than kids that don’t.
So what are you waiting for? Go take your kid outside and have some fun!