there we select the top 10 benefits of playing outdoors for everyone.
Table of Contents
1. Outdoor play helps ensure that kids get enough sunlight — and that’s good for their bodies and brains.
Sunlight: even the light we encounter outside on a heavily overcast day. Far exceeds the lighting we typically encounter indoors. So going outside makes a big difference in the amount of light exposure we encounter.
That’s important because lots of things go wrong when children don’t get enough sunlight. The brain tunes its “inner clock” using light cues, so going outdoors can help children maintain healthy sleep rhythms (see benefit #9 below).
In addition, exposure to sunlight helps ensure that kids get enough vitamin D, affecting numerous health issues, including bone growth, muscle function, and even the timing of puberty.
And here’s another reason to care about your child’s exposure to sunlight: Bright light helps kids concentrate, and may actually enhance the formation of synapses in the brain.
In fact, recent research has persuaded me that we shouldn’t be complacent about lighting. Until proven otherwise, we should assume that long hours in dim lighting conditions could impair a child’s potential to learn. read more..
2. Kids get more vigorous exercise when they’re outdoors.
It seems like common sense, and it’s been verified: Kids tend to get more exercise when they play outside. But the size of the effect varies.
consider a study of 46 preschoolers in daycare. Researchers fitted each child with an accelerometer and a GPS device, and then tracked the children’s movements over the course of the day. When researchers analyzed the results, they found that outdoor play had a major impact on physical activity levels.
Kids were twice as active when they were playing outside, and every additional 10 minutes spent outdoors resulted in almost 3 extra minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity
But outdoor time doesn’t always have a big impact.
In a study of more than 6200 school kids (ages 9-11), each additional hour of outdoor time added only 1.5 to 3.0 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to a child’s day.
The takeaway? Outdoor play can boost activity levels, which is obviously a good thing. Kids need cardiovascular exercise for good health.
What can we do? benefits of playing outdoors
One promising approach is to help kids find peers to play with outdoors. Research suggests that kids get more exercise outside when they are with friends or siblings
3. Outdoor play provides kids with greater freedom to develop their athletic abilities
Outdoor play doesn’t guarantee that a child will become more physically coordinated.
But when children play outside, they usually have more freedom to move around. They can do things that aren’t typically possible indoors – run at top speed, climb tall structures, swing from their arms.
So it makes sense to think that playing outside could help kids develop specific athletic abilities and skills, and there were hints of this in the preschooler study. The kids who played outside more often were faster on their feet. Compared with their more “indoor” peers, they completed a ten-meter race in a shorter time.
4. Outdoor play offers young children special opportunities learn new words and concepts.
Studies suggest hands-on exploration helps young children learn new words — especially words for things that kids can experience physically — like movements, textures, touchable objects, and physical processes.
t’s much easier to learn what squish means if you get to feel mud squishing through your fingers. You’re more likely to understand the concept of melting if you conduct your own experiments with ice cubes in the sun!
So going outdoors is an opportunity for kids to widen their sensory experiences, and gain an intuitive, “embodied” understanding of how things work.
benefits of playing outdoors
5. When kids play in green spaces, they reap special psychological benefits, including better recovery from stress, and enhanced concentration.
Not all time spent outdoors is equal. Nature experiences have a special, restorative effect.
For instance, experimental studies suggest that nature walks trigger short-term improvements in mood and stress recovery. And there is evidence showing that kids become more attentive and focused after playing in natural settings.
Playing in the green space resulted in improvements in attention and working memory performance. Playing on the schoolyard had no measurable effect .
In one study, researchers tested children’s attention and working memory performance and then sent them outside to play in one of two places – (1) a green space with trees, or (2) a paved schoolyard.
6. outdoor play can help children learn social skills
In a study of 575 Australian children between the ages of 2 and 5, researchers found a substantial link between outdoor play and social savvy.
The kids who spent the most time outdoors were, on average, more cooperative. They were also more socially expressive – better able to verbalize their desires, and enter into play with others. By contrast, time spent playing video games was unrelated to social skills
This doesn’t prove the outdoor play caused children to become more cooperative and socially expressive. Maybe the sort of parents who insist on outdoor play is also more likely to teach their kids social niceties!
But given what we know about the benefits of outdoor play in green spaces, it’s easy to see how nature experiences could indirectly contribute to the development of social skills.
Kids who spend lots of time playing in green spaces might feel less stressed, more focused, and more cheerful. And that would make it easier for them to maintain friendly relationships and hone their communication skills.
It’s also clear that young children can learn valuable social lessons when they play with others, especially if they play with older individuals who model desirable behaviour, like turn-taking and compromise. So if kids play outside with other children, they’ll have more opportunities to learn social skills.
My hunch? Sending children outside won’t, by itself, transform them into better citizens. But nature experiences — and cooperative, outdoor play — are probably quite helpful.
benefits of playing outdoors
7. Positive nature experiences teach children to respect and protect the environment.
People who report positive experiences with nature are more likely to behave in ways that protect the environment, and we can see the effect in children as well as adults: Kids who spend more time in nature express more appreciation for wildlife, and more support for conservation (Soga et al 2016; Zhang et al 2014).
Moreover, childhood experiences predict adult behaviour. In a study tracking children from the age of 6, researchers found that childhood time spent outdoors was positively linked with environmentally responsible behaviour during young adulthood
8. Outdoor play may encourage kids to take calculated risks – and become more confident in their abilities.
This is one of those intriguing ideas that makes sense but is awaiting rigorous, scientific testing. The notion is that kids today are rarely permitted to engage in activities that could put them at risk of injury, and that’s bad: If you never test your physical abilities – by, say, climbing a tree – how will learn?
In World, many preschoolers attend outdoor, nature schools, where adults permit kids to climb and leap and take chances. When children master these challenges, they feel exhilarated, and some researchers think the experiences could function as a kind of anti-phobia behavioural therapy. Children learn that they can cope with frightening situations.
This doesn’t mean that adults should abandon all efforts to enforce safety rules. But researchers suggest we shift our mindset from making children’s lives “as safe as possible” to “as safe as necessary.”
They say we should offer kids outdoor venues that feature structures to climb, graded to their developmental abilities. Offer kids construction materials, and access to dirt, sand, and water. Give children opportunities to help out in the garden, and care for animals.
And studies indicate that kids relish these opportunities. For example, kids prefer playgrounds with more challenging climbing structures.
benefits of playing outdoors
9. Outdoor play can reduce a child’s risk becoming nearsighted.
Heredity plays a big role in whether or not a child develops myopia, or nearsightedness. But it’s also clear that time spent outdoors is protective.
Scores of studies show links between outdoor time and the development of myopia. Kids who spend more time outside are less likely to become nearsighted (Goldschmidt and Jacobsen 2014, Rose et al 2016).
And experiments confirm that we can prevent or delay nearsightedness by “prescribing” more outdoor play. For example, in one randomized study, 6-year-olds assigned to get an extra 40 minutes of outdoor time each day were less likely to develop myopia over the following three years (He et al 2015).
10. By itself, outdoor time probably doesn’t prevent obesity — but it’s a good first step toward a more active, healthful lifestyle!
Recently, researchers tracked changes in BMI (body mass index) for more than 2800 children (3- and 4-year-olds) attending 125 different Head Start centres across the United States.
How did the kids experiencing the highest levels of outdoor time each day (60 minutes or more) fare against those who’d experienced the lowest levels of outdoor time (20 minutes or less)?
The kids who spent more time outdoors lost the most weight, with the difference between groups averaging about 0.34 BMI points.
And when researchers reviewed the trajectories of all children, including those who began the study with normal BMIs, they again found a clear link between obesity risk and time spent playing outside:
For every additional minute of outdoor play, a child was 1% less likely to become obese.
That’s nothing to sneeze about. But before we start thinking of outdoor play as a cure-all for obesity, keep in mind: Studies of older kids fail to support the idea.
Why? It isn’t that outdoor time and obesity aren’t connected. But the link tends to disappear when researchers control for other factors, like diet, screen time, inadequate sleep, and physical inactivity levels (Ren et al 2017; Larouche et al 2016; Grigsby-Toussaint 2011).
As we’ve seen above (#3), kids can spend time outdoors without increasing their physical activity levels. So we should think of outdoor play as an excellent first step — a opportunity to motivate kids to exercise.