For the past year, we’ve been cooped up and hemmed in. Now, it’s really spring and days are turning honey-golden, beckoning your children to play outdoors. Open those doors and let them go.
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning,” said Fred Roger of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. “But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
Outdoor, unstructured play has a myriad of benefits for children. At The Center For Advanced Pediatrics, we’re here to explain those benefits and help you give your child space and time beyond school, organized sports and structured activities.
Outdoor play is healthy.
At least an hour of physical activity each day is important for healthy exercise. Being able to run, jump and climb gives children the chance to build muscles, strengthen bones and develop good cardiovascular health. Exposure to sunlight – with sunscreen always applied – helps your child’s body to create vitamin D which builds both bones and your child’s immune system. Your child will sleep more soundly after spending time outdoors each day.
Beyond physical health, outdoor play is also very beneficial for mental health. Kids who play outside are better able to recover from stress and are psychologically restored at the end of play.
Outdoor play is creative.
A puddle of water, a few stones and a couple of sticks and leaves are all it takes for a child’s imagination to explode with possibilities. Kids will begin to create stories, build structures, and make art. Ample time with little parental involvement will spur your child to plan, troubleshoot and problem solve in ways they’ve never done in camps or school. Being outdoors gives children the skills to entertain themselves to banish boredom.
Outdoor play is athletic.
Indoor basketball is great, but outdoor play is hands down more vigorous. When kids are given more freedom of space to move more, they do, kind of like filling a vacuum. Kids who play outside typically run faster than their peers, are better able to climb faster and higher, and can swing from their arms. Your child will also have more confidence in their abilities, as they put those abilities to the test more often outdoors than inside.
Outdoor play is sociable.
Put four unfamiliar kids together and pretty soon, you’ve got four friends. Children will coordinate teams, create rules in their little society and work together to make games more interesting. Kids who play outdoors in an unstructured environment don’t just learn to share and treat other children fairly – they learn the social value of sharing and kindness. Children who play outdoors also tend to have fewer behavioral problems, better able to focus and happier overall.
Outdoor play inspires empathy for nature.
When kids see squirrels, birds, worms and other animals big and small outdoors, it helps them understand the value of nature itself and all the creatures that are a part of it. Opening your child’s mind to what lives in the natural world gives them an understanding of how important it is to preserve that world.
Playing outside will change your child’s health and well-being and boundlessly grow their mind. Open that door and let them play.
Do you have questions about safe outdoor play? Please call 203-229-2000. We’ll be happy to help!