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Why should children spend more time outside?
When kids play outside a lot in early childhood they learn about the world around them and gain an appreciation for nature. They also learn a different set of social and emotion skills that they wouldn’t learn typically indoors.
With the steady growth of technology in today’s modern world, people are spending more and more time on devices and less time outside. Unfortunately, researchers have found that there are major consequences to high levels of screen time.
Benefits of Playing Outdoors
Increased time outdoors has been shown to have immense benefits for children’s (and adults) brain health and development. Researchers say it is actually necessary if your want your child’s brain to grow to its full potential.
When children play outdoors, their frontal cortex is activated. The frontal cortex is responsible for controlling emotions, problem solving and other important skills all humans need to be productive members of society.
This is an obvious benefit, but play outdoors has a huge impact on children’s overall health and physical development. With the continuing rise of childhood obesity, I feel that this is an important topic to go into detail about. Increasing outdoor activity is one of the easiest solutions of combating childhood obesity.
Playing outdoors requires different muscles than indoor activities. It also increases activity and muscle development. Young children are still learning how their bodies work. Having them spend more time outside can help increase coordination, learn how to manipulate various objects and learn important gross motor skills such as jumping, climbing, throwing, running and other important movements.
If your child has special needs, it is especially important to get them outside!
Other important health benefits:
- Stronger muscles and vascular system
- Boosted immune system
- Development complex gross motor skills more efficiently (jumping, climbing, running, etc.)
- Absorption of D Vitamin
- Increased mood
- Healthy Sleep Patterns
THE MIND AND MENTAL HEALTH
ADHD: Playing outdoors has been shown to have tremendous improvements for children with ADHD or attention difficulties.
Rachel and Stephen Kaplan discovered the Attention Restoration Theory. They found that increased time in nature helps increase the ability for one to focus and concentrate, renews your state of mine, renews attention when you start losing focus and reduces stress.
They wrote an entire book on how the mind in impacted by the environment, and more information on ADHD and the outdoors in incuded.
BUILDS CONFIDENCE AND PROMOTES CREATIVITY: When children play outdoors they have a lot more freedom when they play compared to when they play indoors. They have more freedom to control their actions, they are opt to try new things and they learn to accomplish goals (climbing to the top of a jungle gym, running all the way to the fence, etc.).
They are also forced to use their imagination and creative skills more. Outdoor activities typically do not have a strict set of rules like many indoor activities do. Kids can make up games, think more freely and converse with their friends to come up with ideas and solutions together.
Consequences of the decline of playing outside
Decline of Social Skills
Studies from this entire last decade have found a strong connection between the decline of kids playing outside and the rate of mental health disorders in adults, including psychopathy, depression, suicide and depression.
Playing outside and emotion regulation/mental health are directly correlated to each other due to the fact that children learn a wide variety of skills when they play outside, especially when playing with a friend or in a group.
Playing outside is the best and easiest form of social play. It is the innate way humans learn about cooperation, conflict resolution, compromise, managing anger and strong emotions, building confidence with trying new things, building relationships and making friends, learning how to react to others emotions and gaining independence. Interacting in an outdoor environment requires an entire set of social and physical skills than interacting with others outdoors.
Studies have also shown the decline in outdoor play is related to the rise in childhood obesity. A person’s life style is usually the biggest contributing factor to obesity. Our society as a whole has been shifting to a less active lifestyle. People are more focused on technology than the world around them.
Have you noticed the increased worry of ADHD, autism and other disorders? How do you think our cultural lifestyle in the United States is impacting that? There has also been an increase in processed food consumption and a whole boatload of other issues but we won’t get into that here.
Here are some fun outdoor activities, ideas and must haves to help increase your child’s outdoor play time:
1. Explorer Kit
Children, and all humans, are curious by nature. Encouraging your kids to explore the world around them has a lot of benefits:
- Increased vocabulary and knowledge
- I recommend starting with an outdoor element that they are already interested in. Kids will stay focused longer if they are learning something that have a genuine interest and love for already. You can expand on these topics and turn them into even bigger learning opportunities
- For example: if your kid has a love for bugs, start by going into your backyard or a part with your explorer kit and start looking for bugs in the area. Your kid can collect them in a bug catcher container. If you let the kid keep the bug for a little while, you can help teach them how to make an environment in the container that will help them survive. You can expand on this and open up deeper conversations on where other living creatures live and eat, including your family.
- Appreciation of Nature
- As the technology world keeps expanding, westernized love for the outdoors has slowly starting to decline. Finding ways to help your child learn to love nature will help get them outside and off their screens.
- Encouraging an active lifestyle
- As stated before, people are spending more time indoors. It is a lot harder to be active in a home than it is outside. Finding things your child loves outside will help them build a natural active lifestyle for their future.
- Teaching them safety practices
- Exploring outside allows for natural conversations to come up about safety. This could include anything from poisonous plants and heights to strangers.
- Back Pack
- Magnifying Glass
- Bug Catcher
2. Hanging Tree Tent
This is my personal favorite! Children love swinging and forts…why not combine both?! Add an awesome and exciting element to your backyard encourages your child to want to go outside on their own.
Encourage your child to read and do other educational activities while they are in the hanging tree pod. They could bring a coloring book, journal, books and other goodies.
You can incorporate this into the explorer kit by having your child draw what they saw while they were exploring earlier in the day. Having them do it in the pod will allow them to focus better, keep the outdoors in mind while drawing, and allow for them to stay outside long (aka reduced screen time)!
3. DIY Tie Dye Shirts
8. Play sports they enjoy! Soccer nets are easy to put up in the yard.
More coming soon. Make sure to save this to your Pinterest or enter your email below for the full list when it is released.
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