Five Important Reasons Children Need To Play Outside
Getting children to play outside isn’t just fun - there’s a whole host of benefits that will make them healthier and happier. We might reminisce about long, hot summers playing with friends and exploring nature but research shows today’s children are far more likely to stay inside.
The lure of digital technology is causing fewer youngsters to embrace the great outdoors than ever before. A recent government report found more than one in nine children had not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least a year. But playing outdoors is good for physical and mental wellbeing - and today’s youngsters desperately need to be doing more of it.
Here’s five reasons why children need to spend more time outside:
We’re not advocating spending too much time in the sun - that’s dangerous. But we need sun exposure to make vitamin D, which can help everything from bone development to our immune system. Getting plenty of sunlight also affects our mood and our sleep. Just remember to wear sunscreen!
Studies show the unstructured style of play outside means children think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways. Outdoor play can help children to learn to push their boundaries safely and become more confident.
Taking risks is part of growing up - the odd scabby knee never hurt anyone! It also teaches them to explore new games and become confident in learning to try new things without being guided by adults.
Research shows that children use five times as many words when they play outdoors compared to indoors, and that there’s a direct correlation between obesity and lack of time spent outside.
Being outside generally means being on the move - the total opposite to being on the sofa in front of a screen. Children don’t need to sign up to sports club or riding an expensive bike though - even a walk in the part will energise them. Some studies have shown this in turn will make them more focused mentally. All that running around has obvious physical benefits too.
4. Social Skills
Being cooped up on your own playing video games means exactly that - you’re cooped up on your own. If you’re out and about, you learn skills that will bode well for children later in life.
You can’t all play on the swings at once - so you learn how to share and take turns. These interactions also help improve communication, cooperation and organisational skills
Fresh air and free play are thought to reduce stress levels - especially in natural environments free from the constant distractions of towns and cities. American researchers have found that children in green spaces have a natural outlet for stress.