The invention of the internet has altered the way kids spend most of their leisure time. Instead of playing outside with friends, they are now more likely to be glued to a screen indoors. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children and adolescents spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes per day using electronic media, including computers, video games, television, and movies.
While spending time online has its benefits, research has shown that too much screen time can negatively affect children’s health. These include obesity, sleep problems, and poor grades in school. This is where the importance of the outdoors comes in.
Outdoor play offers many benefits that are essential to child development. Here are eight of them:
Outdoor play helps kids develop physically
Playing outside gives children the opportunity to run, jump, climb and use their large muscles. This is important for developing gross motor skills and coordination. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “free play” is also essential for developing the small muscles in the hands and fingers.
Aside from improved motor skills, playing outdoors regularly can also help reduce kids’ body mass index. What does it mean for them? It means a lower likelihood of obesity and other weight-related issues. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle and limited activity can do the opposite and put them at risk for long-term health problems.
Outdoor play boosts kids’ cognitive development
Cognitive benefits of outdoor play include improved problem-solving skills, creativity, and imagination. When children are outdoors, they have the opportunity to explore their environment and use their senses to discover new things. They can also experiment with different ways of doing things and learn about cause and effect.
For example, a child trying to build a sandcastle might figure out that wet sand is easier to shape than dry sand. Or a child who is exploring a nature trail might learn that it’s easier to walk on level ground than up a hill.
Outdoor play enhances social and emotional development
Outdoor play gives children the chance to practice critical social skills such as cooperation, sharing, and communication. They also learn how to resolve conflict and deal with frustrating situations. As they interact with other kids, they develop a sense of identity and belongingness.
Outdoor play supports language development
When kids are outdoors, they have more opportunities to use and experiment with language. They can practice verbal communication and nonverbal communication such as gestures and facial expressions. They can also learn new words to describe their environment and the things they see, hear and smell.
Outdoor play helps kids focus and pay attention
A study done by the University of Illinois found that children with ADHD who spent more time outdoors had fewer symptoms of the disorder than those who spent less time outdoors. The researchers believe that being in nature helps to improve kids’ ability to focus and pay attention.
Outdoor play improves mental health
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that outdoor play can help reduce symptoms of ADHD in children. The research showed that kids who spend more time outdoors are less likely to display symptoms such as inattention and impulsivity.
Another study found that exposure to nature can help reduce stress and anxiety in children. The study’s participants were asked to complete a stressful task while hooked up to a heart rate monitor. The results showed that those who had been exposed to nature had lower heart rates and felt less stressed than those who hadn’t.
So, if your child is feeling anxious or overwhelmed, spending time outside might be a good idea.
Outdoor play helps kids connect with nature
When children spend time outdoors, they develop a greater appreciation for nature and the environment. They learn about the natural world and how to take care of it. They also learn to respect animals and other living things.
Outdoor play is just plain fun!
Last but not least, outdoor play is enjoyable for kids. It’s an excellent way to burn off energy, explore their surroundings and have new experiences. So make sure to encourage your child to play outside every day!
Encouraging your little one to play outdoors can benefit their development more than one! From improving mental health to boosting cognitive skills, outdoor play is essential for a child’s growth and well-being.
At The Pillars Christian Learning Center, we understand that you want the best possible education for your children. Give them the start they need to go on to do amazing things. Give us a call to learn more!