By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, May 3, 2016 –
Spring and summer brings blue skies, warm breezes and the sound of children playing outdoors. Most parents have no problem sending their children outside to play.
Why? Because we all know there are quite a few real benefits to playing outdoors.
Children who play outside learn how to solve real-life problems better than children who are always in their rooms playing video games in seclusion. Examples of problem solving include learning to get along with friends or trying to figure out the best way to build a fort.
Playing outside provides children with exercise, something many children don’t get enough of anymore. Outdoor play combines exercise with having fun. Riding bikes, playing tag with friends and throwing or hitting a ball all get our children’s bodies moving, something playing most video games can’t accomplish.
It may be hard to accept that children could experience stress or suffer from conditions such as depression or anxiety, but these issues are becoming more common with today’s kids who have busy schedules with long school days and extracurricular activities.
Physical activity in the form of outdoor play can help kids reduce their stress. The Children & Nature Network says contact with nature can help reduce stress levels and positively impact conditions such as anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
One of the qualities many children are lacking is imagination. In today’s age of technology, children are provided with images for everything.
Why go outside and play astronaut in outer space when we can watch a movie about it or play a video game? Playing outside helps children develop their imagination, which is something television, video games and computers can’t do.
Free play and discretionary time has declined more than nine hours a week over the last 25 years. A new Nielson Company report indicates children 2-5 now spend more than 32 hours a week on average in front of a TV screen.
According to the Keiser Family Foundation, the amount of screen time only increases with age with school-aged children spending 7.5 hours a day on electronic media.
Finally, it’s important that children get vitamin D, and the best source is the sun. Vitamin D helps promote better moods, energy levels, memory and overall health. Just 10-15 minutes out in the sun will give our children their daily dose of vitamin D.
Encouraging children to go outside, get moving and connect with the natural world are all ways to reverse childhood obesity rates. But the benefits don’t stop there. Kids who play outside are happier, healthier and stronger!