Research is very clear on the topic of outside play for children. Indeed, it is clear on the importance of spending time outdoors for all of us, including grownups. Bryna Campbell of Super Nature Adventures explains that “Getting outdoors regularly is important for kids and adults alike. For kids, outdoor time is proven to encourage creativity and problem-solving skills. Time in nature can help improve concentration, physical agility, and sustained intellectual development. Studies have also shown that kids who spend lots of time in nature are more likely to care for their environment as adults.”
The types of activities may change with the seasons, and the clothing may get warmer and heavier, but the fact remains that it is good for children to be outside as much as possible, all year long.
4 Reasons Children Should Play Outside
- Large motor development. Most parents have some very reasonable rules inside their homes such as no running or no climbing on the furniture. But the very fact that you have to have those rules proves how natural it is for children to engage in those activities. Indoor play rarely allows children to fully use their large muscle groups as much as is necessary for healthy development. Giving your child plenty of time to play outdoors offers her the opportunity to work those big muscles and develop different skills. Running, climbing, and jumping are all essential activities for your child.
- A chance to take risks. As parents, we spend a great deal of time making sure our children are safe and unharmed. We watch out for dangers everywhere we go with our children. However, kids need the chance to take risks and to fail. Outdoor play inherently allows children to engage in riskier behaviors, such as jumping off of rocks, climbing up something taller than themselves, or running on trails that may have tripping hazards. Yes, falls and scrapes and bruises are likely, but this all helps to build children's awareness of their own capabilities and serves to develop a sense of resiliency.
- Take a break from the germs. Fall and winter bring us the height of cold and flu season, and part of the reason is because so many people are staying indoors, sharing their germs in close quarters. Getting outside not only gives your kiddo a break from all the germs circulating, but it also fills your child's body with fresh oxygen that boosts the white blood cells, so they more effectively do their job of fighting off bacteria and viruses. Older generations mistakenly believed that being in cold air would make you catch a cold, but science has proven this to be false. As long as your child is dressed properly for the weather, being outside any time of year is one of the best ways to boost the body's immune system so that it can ward off illnesses.
- Better sleep for your child. We live in a time where screens and devices surround families. Research has proven that the blue light from these devices disrupts the body's ability to make the sleep hormone, melatonin. Natural light, however, as well as physical activity, helps the body produce an ample supply of melatonin so that your child can get quality, adequate sleep. Time spent playing outdoors will help your child to fall asleep quicker and to sleep more soundly.
God gave us a big beautiful world to explore, and He didn’t intend for us to ignore it when the rains come. As Ms. Campbell notes, heading outdoors in the rain “often requires an attitude shift on the part of parents. For kids, the wet weather brings all kinds of new forms of fun. The rainy season means more puddles to jump in, more mud to play in (and with), and the return of a lot of creatures such as slugs.”
So go ahead and bundle up, head outside, and reap the benefits of what God has provided, no matter the weather.