Getting kids to play outside is getting harder and harder. Studies show that they're spending half as much time playing outdoors as they did when we were the same age as them, which is a shame because there are so many benefits to playing outdoors.
In this post, we've listed the 7 benefits of playing outside. Covering everything from the health benefits to the social and emotional benefits of having some good old-fashioned fun.
The Benefits Of Outdoor Play
It helps children sleep at night
Can you ever remember having a bad night's sleep when you were little? No? The thing is that when you were younger, you used to be running, jumping and skipping everywhere. All of this creates a load of well-being hormones and depletes your energy reserves so that it is almost next to impossible to have a bad night's sleep. Add to that, the exposure to sunlight can act as a powerful cue to programme the brain for when it's time to sleep and time to stay awake.
Improve overall health
Being outside has some obvious health benefits, starting with sunlight. The more sunlight we're exposed to, the more Vitamin D our bodies naturally produce, which helps us increase serotonin levels. Outdoor play also helps to relieve depression and anxiety as sunlight reduces the hormone cortisol. So being outside literally makes us happy! There are plenty of physical benefits of outdoor recreation, too, as it encourages more movement for stronger muscles and bones and better heart and lung health.
Appreciation for the environment
Children who play outdoors develop a greater appreciation for nature and the environment. As they muck around climbing trees or picking berries, they're creating a positive relationship with it that will stretch into adulthood. So much so that one study found 87% of those who played outside when they were younger still held a love of nature into adulthood.
Develops social skills
Kids who don't play outside only interact with other children in structured settings like the classroom or a sports team. By doing this, they miss out on all the social skills that come with unstructured play – like taking turns, cooperating, communicating and sharing. Not to mention that playing outside can open them up to meeting people from different backgrounds, which is great for helping them to develop empathy and understanding of different circumstances and cultures.
It increases attention spans
Vitamin D is a miracle vitamin. It can help with all sorts of health issues like bone growth and muscle function, but one benefit that is less frequently talked about is its impact on mental planning and concentration. So by having your kids play outside a bit more, you are helping them focus more when they are inside.
Dont forget to check out our post on mindfulness activities for kids this new year!
It increases immunity and happiness
We already know that sunshine makes us happy, but it also makes us healthier. Light from the sun in any weather stimulates the pineal gland, which is a part of the brain that keeps our immune system strong. And a more robust immune system means fewer sleepless nights for Mum and Dad, which is a win-win for everyone.
It helps develop independence
Every parent wants to ensure that their children are safe, but you also have to give them enough freedom to grow and develop. Outdoor play can be a great way to do that whilst keeping them close by. By letting them run around the local park, play games with friends outside the house, or climb trees while on a family walk – you're really letting them explore their boundaries, take risks and learn from mistakes.
So the health benefits of kids playing outside are pretty powerful - better mental and physical health, longer attention span, better immunity, and happier. Children have many reasons to unplug from their digital lives for a few hours and break free into the great outdoors. In fact, we should all reconnect with outdoor play, no matter our age, because it enriches relationships, brings us back to nature and helps us to focus on what's important in life.
So grab your boots, zip up that coat and open the door to the outside world for the kids, and yourself. You've got nothing to lose but your inhibitions. Have fun :)