Playing outside with your child offers developmental opportunities that many kids are lacking today. It’s not simply a cliché to think that children benefit from playing outdoors. There’s a growing body of scientific research that has found some incredible advantages for a child’s development if you engage them in outdoor activities. As your child’s physical or occupational therapist will tell you, your child will learn more about the world around them and their body when you get them off the couch and outside for some play. If you need recommendations on some great outdoor activities you can do with your child, don’t hesitate to ask us! In the meantime, here are three reasons why it’s important to play outside with your child – supported by research published in the Porto Biomedical Journal in 2017.
1. Contact With Natural Elements
Playing outside in nature – whether it’s at a local park or in your own backyard – creates unique possibilities for children to flex their imagination. Think of all the options available in nature that your child would not have with a commercially made toy (or worse, on a smartphone, tablet or TV screen). Sticks, rocks, plants, leaves, soil, and water can all be converted into something else when a child engages their imagination. Your child’s natural sense of discovery is engaged when they play outside, and that contributes to creativity, problem-solving, and divergent thinking skills. Believe it or not, researchers have also found that “getting dirty” by coming into contact with harmless microbes outside makes children more resistant to diseases and can alleviate the symptoms of conditions like asthma and eczema.
2. Importance of Risk
We all want to keep our children safe, but researchers think modern society has evolved to the point where we are keeping our children “too safe.” By sheltering children through exclusive indoor play, we keep them from becoming exposed to important growth and development opportunities that come with “risky play.” That doesn’t mean dangerous play; it simply means playing outside in a safe location where they have the opportunity to experience a skinned knee or to fall down. Here’s a really simple way to look at it. If your child attempts to climb a tree and gets a splinter, but fails to climb the tree, she will learn far more than if she never attempted to climb the tree at all. Scientists believe the trial-and-error that kids experience through “risky play” outdoors contributes to skills like entrepreneurship, self-awareness, problem-solving, independence, and persistence.
3. Socialization Opportunities
Researchers have also found that playing outside lets children show off aspects of their personality that they will never encounter in an indoor setting. Maybe your child loves to sprint and feel the wind in his hair; how would you ever know if you don’t take him out to a wide-open, grassy space at the park? Researchers also discovered that kids play together and socialize better outdoors than indoors. Young children especially tend to pair off as teachers and learners to interact with each other. Levels of stress and anxiety for children were also diminished by playing outdoors. Plus, guess what? Parents experienced a drop in their stress levels as well when playing outdoors with their children – meaning there are benefits to getting outdoors for the whole family!
There is a lot of research that also indicates that outdoor play is extremely good for kids with special needs. If you want to amplify the therapy and other assistance that your child is receiving, start taking him outdoors for these added benefits.
Is your family in need of fitness assistance? Fitness for Health can help your family create a healthy, active lifestyle while having fun. We offer customized exercise programs designed to fit your exact needs and help you reach your unique health goals. And, we offer family workouts so families can become active together. Visit www.FitnessForHealth.org to learn about our programs or call us at 301-231-7138.