Perhaps it was a time riding your bike, swimming with your friends, building a tree fort, or just exploring nature that stands out as one of your fondest childhood memories. To children, going outside can be like unlocking a whole new world of endless possibilities of the imagination. Yet the average child spends as little as 4 hours a week outdoors.
It is commonly known that the decrease in time indoors is attributed to screen time, parenting styles, and schedules. However, there are parents who base their decisions about bringing their child outdoors based on weather conditions. Nonetheless, there are numerous benefits for children to be outdoors for overall well-being that all parents should know about.
10 Physiological Benefits
When you bring a child outdoors, you give them the feeling of no longer being contained, providing an opportunity to use large muscles needed for gross motor development. Children are able to run, use balance while walking on uneven terrain, and practice coordination while riding a bike.
Exposing your child to all weather elements (within reason) can be beneficial physiologically because your child's body will be able to adapt to unpredictable changes based on the environment. Being outside helps to regulate blood pressure and circulation, maintain healthy body weight, and improve sleep patterns, too.
9 Psychological & Emotional Benefits
Connecting with nature helps a child's brain de-stress from the distractions of living in a busy urban environment. Nature can also help a child become self-aware of experiencing the environment through the senses. Compared to television and video games, playing in nature can stimulate the five senses, which act as a grounding technique and have a calming effect on children.
Even though parents may not see their child as being stressed, children are constantly learning how to regulate their feelings and emotions. Taking time for unstructured play outdoors benefits kids as it encourages them to use different parts of their brain simultaneously, which improves cognitive function.
8 Social Benefits
According to the Child Mind Institute and research conducted by the University of Sydney, children who spend more time outdoors have higher social functioning. Generally, children are used to conversing with other kids the same age at school and daycare. Since outdoor time is less structured, younger children will be able to learn new skills modeled by older children and older children learn how to be mindful of younger children.
Playing outdoors in all types of weather can benefit your child socially, as communication would be important for them to discuss with peers if an activity is doable and if plans need to change to better suit conditions. As adults, these types of conversations can be second nature. However, it's learning this skill as a child that lays the foundation of how to get a message across.
7 Boosts The Immune System
You might be familiar with the myth that one can catch a cold from the rain? Although the myth is untrue since being exposed to a virus is what causes colds and the flu, a body that isn't used to enduring colder and wet temperatures can develop symptoms of sickness because the immune system becomes weaker.
Letting your children play in the rain every once and a while exposes the immune system to the elements and strengthens the response needed to not become sick. Being outdoors this summer can also help your child build immunity to fight against seasonal allergies, plus escape the germs and viruses that have been trapped inside the home all winter.
6 Problem-Solving Skills
Playing outdoors can be a solution to a bored child since there are no distractions by a screen, and it requires your child to use problem-solving skills to use whatever materials are outdoors to play with. Each time your child is outside, they problem-solve where to play, what to play with, and how to play it.
For example, it's a really hot and sunny day and you've told your child to play in the shade. Even though they wanted to drive their bicycle in the driveway where the sun is, they decide to bicycle on the covered porch and imagines that they are driving on a bridge. Or, your children wanted to play on the slide but it's wet from the rain, so instead, they decide to make mudpies since the ground is wet anyway.
5 Play Skills
Similar to social skills, play skills can be overlooked in importance since it doesn't seem like hard work. However, play skills are essential in your child's ability to self-regulate, communicate, and negotiate. Children learn how to play with others and alone while outdoors since it requires them to use their imagination when interacting with their surrounding environment.
While outdoors, children are required to plan and sequence their play for a better-defined result in the activity. Since there are more toys indoors, which can cause your child to change activities more quickly, being outdoors can prolong the duration of what your child is doing. Focused attention to play can also make them conscious of how to move their body to adapt to playing outdoors.
Most children are instinctively drawn to the rain and splashing in puddles, as they are naturally curious about the elements, and yet parents are hesitant of letting their kids get wet. Be that as it may, playing in the rain not only helps with strengthening the immune system and preparing your child to navigate slippery terrain but can also help broaden their intellectual skills.
Bringing your children outside in the rain this summer can give them hands-on knowledge of what they might have already learned about in school. For instance, your child can use their senses to determine if rain is on its way, analyze how rain falls in different intensities and durations, and see what happens to the rainwater once it hits the ground. Even more so, teaching your child what to do with their wet coat and boots encourages independence and responsibility.
3 Mud & Dirt
Understandably, parents may defer their child from getting dirty because of the additional laundry and cleaning up. Despite the annoyance, children who are encouraged to get dirty every once and a while benefit by being exposed to a strain of bacterium in the soil. Mycobacterium Vaccae, a natural anti-depressant with no side effects, has been proven to trigger a release of serotonin production in the brain, which helps children to feel happier and relaxed.
Children who play in the mud and dirt are not only being exposed to Mycobacterium Vaccae topically through their hands and skin but can inhale it or get it into their bloodstream if they have any small cuts. Even if the mud and dirt get washed away immediately, your child will benefit from an elevated mood and able to concentrate more effectively.
Sunlight provides us with Vitamin D, a nutrient needed for absorption of calcium to maintain healthy bone growth, strength, and development. However, it's not just our children's bodies that benefit. Sunlight triggers the brain to release serotonin, which helps our children feel happier. In addition, according to a 2011 study, outdoor play in the sun can reduce the chances of a child becoming nearsighted since they are focusing their eyes on objects in natural light.
With sunlight exposure being beneficial to a child's overall health and well-being, parents should still caution the dangers of the sun. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, toddlers and babies are at the highest risks for developing heat exhaustion since their bodies are smaller and unable to regulate temperatures easily. It's best for children to take breaks from the sun and stay hydrated.
1 Parental Benefits
There are so many benefits for children to play outdoors in all types of weather: physiological, psychological, social, play, immune responses, and positive chemical changes. As parents, we strive to help our child healthily develop in any way we can. Yet, sometimes it is easy to not acknowledge that these benefits we strive to obtain for our children can also benefit us, the parents.
Fresh air and the outdoors positively impacts anyone at any age. Parents who recognize their own needs will raise children who are self-aware, too. Additionally, if a parent acknowledges and enhances their physical and mental health, it would naturally improve the relationship, patience, and parenting style with their kids.