In one of our previous posts we talked about the many benefits of physical activity for children and time spent outdoors has just as many advantages for children. Apart from the fact that they are more likely to engage in healthy forms of play that will stimulate exercise, unstructured play time spent outdoors is beneficial for their creativity and development.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation has created a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, which encourages children to spend more time participating in outdoor activities by outlining a set of goals that each child should aim to complete before they turn 14. These goals include activities ranging from planting a seed to camping under the stars; they are all simple enough that children of all ages can realistically complete and enrich their connection to nature.
But why is time spent outdoors so important? Along with a list of goals, the department of Parks and Rec provides research substantiating claims that time spent outdoors is in fact beneficial to children:
“Active play has been defined as unstructured physical activity which takes place outdoors in a child’s free time. In addition to physical health benefits, active play adds unique contributions to children’s development which may not be obtained from more structured forms of physical activity, including creativity, resolving conflicts and informal social engagement away from the influence of adults.”
By spending time outdoors with other children, kids are given opportunities to learn to communicate and practice healthy interactions with their peers, as opposed to simply interacting through the socially obstructive barrier of a computer screen. Though it may not seem imperative to our children’s development, play time spent outdoors is more significant than we give it credit for: “Play isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. Play is as important to our physical and mental health as getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Play teaches us how to manage and transform our “negative” emotions and experiences. It supercharges learning, helps us relieve stress, and connects us to others and the world around us.”
In this technologically inclined generation, emphasis and interest in nature has greatly diminished from times past. Laure Latham, a local author and writer at frogmom.com says it best when she said “Today’s kids are much more at ease in front of an iPad than in front of a pile of sticks and we know that connecting to nature is important – it’s been studied enough.. Playing outside is good for our kids’ health but it’s also good for our kids’ brains.”
It really is time we re-evaluate the importance of time spent outdoors and give it the attention it deserves, it has been proven to be truly valuable in children’s development and the benefits reaped from it are indispensable.