THE BENEFITS OF OUTDOOR PLAY
I still look back fondly at the days spent running around outside with my siblings and our friends. Climbing, jumping, swinging, playing ball, hide and seek, laughing, collecting the odd bumps and bruises along the way and feeling of the sun on my face. I did my best to make sure my own daughter got to experience as much of this as possible as she grew up. Playing in leaves, floating leaf boats down a stream, having apple rolling contests with her papa, enjoying nature with her grandpa and going for hikes with her dad and I in Algonquin Park as well as playing on the swing set in our backyard.
But nowadays it seems that kids are spending more of their time indoors – what will their memories of childhood be – video games, TV, loads of homework? Where did we lose the fun of just playing and having fun outside with no specific game plan? Just 30-60 minutes a day of outdoor activity does their body and emotional well-being so much good!
Let’s look at the benefits of playing outdoors.
VITAMIN D & FRESH AIR
The sun influences our moods and thinking processes and helps make our bones stronger through ensuring proper Vitamin D intake. Sunlight increases the serotonin levels in your child’s brain enhancing their mood and makes everyone feel more energetic and invigorated.
Playing games out in the fresh air brings happiness and a sense of freedom that playing indoors simply can’t compete with. The wind in their hair or the drops of rain on their upturned faces, jumping in puddles, sliding down slides, swinging on swings or rope ladders….just makes you feel happy and free. When they are happy, you feel happy too!
Kids need exercise. Children’s bodies, brains, muscles and bone development are affected by physical activity as their bodies are growing. Running, climbing, hopping, skipping, jumping all help develop their strength physically as well as mentally and stimulates their creativity.
With the alarming rates of obesity rising among our young people, it is even more important to get them out of the house and getting exercise.
Being social doesn’t mean just attending school or a birthday party or event. Socialization for children begins on the playground. Playing with their friends, cousins or neighbourhood children is their first lesson in getting along with others. It teaches them to work together, to negotiate and take responsibility for their choices.
We all need friends, if your child doesn’t learn how to be a friend they may have trouble connecting with others as they grow older. Arrange play time for your child to meet new children or invite their school friends over and let them interact together and just maybe that one friend or two they make now will be their friend for all time.
As a parent you always want to be there to solve their problems, but sometimes our over protectiveness forces our children to stay in a bubble wrapped world. One day you won’t be around to protect them, then what will they do? The world is full of decisions and safety risks and your kids need to be able to face them.
In the atmosphere of a playground, kids face challenges and risk. They make decisions themselves or together with their peers, they face the risk factors and problems and solve them, whether it is climbing a ladder or up a slide, swinging high, jumping or running or deciding who to listen to when the crazy ideas start popping up.
So be there watching but let them expose themselves to learning the consequences of bad decisions and the awesomeness of making great ones.
Click here for more information on allowing children to take risks
Even kids want to be independent. They want to explore the world and make their own decisions and contribute in something. They get the opportunity to enjoy their first essence of independence while playing outdoors. They get to know that they have some place where they can act according to what they wish while still under your watchful eye.
Let them explore this independence, let them fall and skin their knees, let them learn their boundaries and physical limits without having a super protective parent running to pick them up and kiss their boo boos. Let them learn that for every action is a reaction and you will be raising an independent child ready to face the future head on, knowing that they still have a loving parent to fall back on when they really need it.
Last but not least – SLEEP
Studies have proven that kids who spend too much time housebound in front of screens (computer, video games, tvs) tend to sleep less than others. This lack in sleep, causes issues with their activity and academic results. If you provide them with proper time to play outside, with exposure to sunlight and physical exercise, it will make them tired and they will sleep better.
By – Lori Wilks