March 15, 2022
Benefits of Children Participating in Outdoor Activities
By Shanna O’Mara
Looking back on childhood, some of the best memories may be those that happened just before the streetlights came on – summer days spent outside with friends. Children are naturally drawn to the outdoors, where they can burn off excess energy and connect with others through unstructured activities. Playing outside has proven to be extremely beneficial, more than just a way to have fun. Children are healthier as a result and they form lasting relationships with their peers and the environment around them.
Playing outdoors requires endurance, muscle strength and motor skills. Children get aerobic exercise and gain strength when running, climbing, swimming, etc. Studies show that children burn more calories outdoors, which helps prevent obesity. Obesity affects about 20% of children and teens across the country, according to the CDC. Lace up those sneakers and be active is a great way to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
Enjoy the sun
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, many children suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D occurs naturally in few foods and in such small amounts. Supplements can be taken, but most people get a daily dose through sun exposure. Children who spend time outdoors are less likely to be vitamin D deficient. Their bones will be stronger, reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis and other bone conditions later in life. . Sunlight and fresh air can also improve their mood and boost their immunity.
The University of British Columbia published a study in 2017 which showed that children who regularly play outdoors and spend time outdoors are more likely to develop a lasting relationship with nature. As these children grow into decision-making adults who play an important role in society, they are more likely to act in ways that protect the environment. They can pursue careers in environmental studies, make greener choices in their daily lives, and overall enjoy the natural world around them.
Develop social skills
Children who participate in unstructured play outdoors are more likely to use their imaginations and problem-solving skills. They often work with others to set rules for a game, create play materials, and explore their surroundings. When playing in a group, communication skills are enhanced, as are motor skills.
When playing outdoors or attending camp with other children, children experience a sense of togetherness. They work as a team when playing sports, communicate when establishing the rules of the game and express themselves through physical activity. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who play outdoors are more in tune with themselves and less likely to bully others.
Strengthen those senses
In recent years, children have been exposed to technology more than ever in their daily lives, and increased screen time has led to a myriad of issues for children, including shortened attention spans and vision problems. Studies show that children who engage in outdoor activities have better distance vision than children who spend more time indoors. They are also better equipped to form perceptions of the world around them when exposed to it organically rather than through television or other devices.