If you are like most parents, you probably know that kids are spending more time indoors glued on television screens and video games than they do to outdoor play. The increasing decline in the number of active kids is a major concern for health experts around the world. Most parents agree that they want their kids to be physically active, healthy, and well-rounded individuals. Unfortunately, the only way of achieving these goals is by encouraging them to spend more time playing outdoors.
So, why do children need outdoor play? Outdoor recreation is a critical part of childhood. Many of the developmental tasks that kids must achieve such as risk-taking, exploring, and brain development can only be accomplished through outdoor play. Furthermore, promoting outdoor play allows them to explore the environment more, get fresh air and learn how to take care of their surroundings. The hands-on outdoor activities stimulate their senses through what they touch, feel, hear, and see.
By encouraging your young ones to spend more time outdoors and away from the digital devices, you are not only aiding the kid’s physical wellbeing, but also playing a critical role in improving their emotional and intellectual wellbeing.
Read on to find out some of the critical reasons why children need more outdoor play.
1. Improved Motor Skills
The only place where your children can run, jump, throw balls, pull things, lift and carry objects and do all sorts of things is outdoors. The controlled indoor environment limits their ability to explore and try out new things.
With the increased rate of activity outdoors, children tend to develop more advanced motor skills compared to their peers who spend most of their time indoors. When playing outside, kids also get engaged in simple aerobic exercises and gain valuable motor skills while pulling or pushing the outdoor play equipment.
Scientific research shows that children tend to burn more calories when playing outdoors than when they are indoors. This helps to lower their risk of developing obesity by strengthening their muscles and bones.
Playing outside in the sun also helps them to absorb more of vitamin D needed for strong bones. By allowing children to test and stretch their physical abilities, they also become more confident in their movements and improve their decision-making abilities.
2. Lowers Body Mass Index
In 1980, only seven percent of kids in the world were considered obese. Approximately 40 years later, research shows that at least one in every three kids is obese. The primary reason behind the sudden increase in the numbers is a drastic change in our lifestyles.
Today, more and more kids are fed unhealthy food and discouraged to participate in outdoor play. Children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop obesity because they are physically active and burn a lot of calories compared to their indoor counterparts.
Playing outside means kids are spending time away from their video games, television screens, and smartphones. It means jumping, running, walking, climbing, pulling, pushing, and generally burning more calories. In fact, there is a direct correlation between a child’s body mass index and the amount of time they are allowed to spend outside playing.
The longer the child is allowed to play outside, the lower their body mass index and vice versa. Therefore, if you don’t want your children to develop obesity and related complications, make sure you start taking them for outdoor play more frequently.
3. Learning about the World
Outdoor play helps kids to learn a lot of things about the world. How do plants grow? How does ice feel and sound? Do butterflies learn how to fly? Can a stick stand in the sand? Why are some animals dangerous? How does mud feel? Why do we slide down and not up?
Basically, outdoor play provides your child with an incredible chance to understand why some things happen the way they do. Much of what the child learns outside will stick in their head since it comes along with a lot of fun.
In the outdoor setup, children can learn ecology, gardening, mathematics, science, farming, construction, the seasons, vocabulary, the various times of the day, weather, and much more.
Not only do children learn about a lot of basic fundamental information about their surroundings in an effective manner, but they are also more likely to remember what they learned while playing outdoors because it was meaningful and concrete.
4. Improve Sensory Skills
An optometry and vision science research found out that children who spend most of their time playing outside tend to have better distance vision than their counterparts who are always indoors. Preschoolers, in particular, tend to learn a lot of things through their senses.
Think of the delight of a toddler when they consume a caregiver-approved berry from the forest (taste), see new animals and insects for the first time(sight), watch the water form beautiful puddles for stomping (hearing and touch) or stop at a bed of fragrant flowers (smell & touch).
On the other hand, children who are always glued on television and video games only use two senses most of the time (hearing and sight). This can hurt the development of their sensory and perceptual skills.
5. Improved Peer-to-Peer Relationships
When your children go out to play, they will meet other children and become friends. Technically, it means that they start being aware of other people around them who come from different families and backgrounds and will start to develop relationships with them.
They will learn how to form and sustain friendships. This is the primary reason why kids who play outside are less likely to bully their peers.
Outdoor play requires imagination and teamwork, which helps kids develop positive interactions with each other. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreements or arguments over whose turn it is to shoot a basket or go into the slide.
But, in general, children who play outside consistently will know how to get along with their peers even when there are disagreements. They will always work towards finding common ground. Soaking up the sunshine improves their moods as well and teaches them perseverance.
6. Helps Them to Develop a Sense of Independence
Playing outside can also help your young ones develop their sense of independence. Even though a parent or caregiver is always close by the entire time, children generally feel a sense of freedom and independence when they are left to play on their own in a playground.
They get the chance to explore and take risks without feeling like someone is on their neck. They can experiment with new things and figure out the results on their own.
They can invent new games with their friends, explore their abilities and figure out what they are capable of doing.
The overall confidence that results from this sense of freedom and independence will help them massively as they continue to grow.
Every time they step out, they feel happier because they know that they can take risks and apply their problem-solving skills without annoying their parents/caregivers.
7. Allows Children to be Children
Parents must learn how to use playgrounds to fulfill basic childhood needs. Keep in mind that childhood is all about running, jumping, swinging, yelling, rolling, making big messes, hiding, and doing all sorts of crafty things. Childhood is never about television, video games, and smartphones.
The right things that can make your little one enjoy his or her childhood cannot be done indoors. Therefore, it is critical to take your child outside and let them have memorable childhood experiences.
Stop containing and controlling your kid within that small apartment when you can take them outside and let them enjoy their childhood. The outdoor environment will help fulfill your child’s basic needs for adventure, experimentation, and freedom.
Children need an opportunity to explore the unknown, the adventurous, and the unpredictable. They also need to discover nature and figure out the things in it. Such things cannot be done indoors.
8. Increase attention spans
Lastly, children who spend a lot of time playing outside are more curious, self-directed and likely to stay focused for longer periods. Kids who spent most of their time indoors with little exposure tend to lose focus much faster and fail to increase their attention spans as required.
In fact, studies have shown that children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to show fewer symptoms when they are allowed to spend more time outside playing.
One of the most important things you need to do as a parent is to encourage your child to spend more time playing outdoors. Whether your kid is one year or 12 years old, encourage him/her to ditch the screen and enjoy quality time outdoors.
Organize for weekend day outs in parks, playgrounds, or woods and be there to help your kid enjoy being outside. It doesn’t matter whether they are playing alone or with friends.
Outdoor play not only gives your child a chance to explore the natural environment but also teaches him/her valuable life skills and lessons that will help him/her grow into a responsible individual.