Key Benefits of Outdoor Play

The lack of outdoor play for children is increasing in many parts of America. Many children spend more time indoors or with technology.

Rather than exploring nature, children focus on excelling at video games. These drastic changes from outdoor to indoor generated a movement called a nature-deficient disorder or less outdoor playtime.

Author Robert Louv established the term nature-deficient disorder to raise awareness of the importance of outdoor play. 

Benefits of Outdoor Play

Outdoor play involves physical and emotional activities. That is, children need interaction with other peers to generate new solutions. But that is not the only reason children need to play outside.

When children interact with others, they develop communication skills. For example, a standard action of sharing or manners is something children learn from others.

Aside from bringing children together to collaborate, outdoor playing also promotes creativity. Imaginative playing is another way outdoor exploration helps with creativity.

outdoor play

How many times might you see children come up with fun games of pirates, cooking, or ice cream shop? A child creates situations in dramatic play to associate with events in real life.

In this way, outdoor play helps children cope with stressful situations like attending a new school or family separation. Nature also offers opportunities for children, including those with attention deficiency, to focus on tasks for long periods.

Aside from interaction and focus, children also generate their own questions about nature. Of course, you don’t have to make a science lesson, unless you want to, when children inquire about life.

However, take those moments of curiosity to nurture the scientist in your child. When answers are not apparent, take the time to look up the answer together.

As indoor activities are sometimes inevitable, consider using that time to find solutions and nurture that inner curiosity. 

Increasing Concern of Less Outdoor Play

Less outdoor play means more indoor activities. However, children spend more time on the screen than with physical movement.

A concern for many experts is that children are prone to less social skills, cognitive development, and problem-solving activities.

  • As children interact more with technology, they also spend less time with friends.
  • Subsequently, their friends enjoy spending more time indoors playing video games.
  • Instead, they could enjoy each other’s friendship in exploring nature.

How detrimental is the lack of outdoor play?

An interview with Dr. Robert Murray at the American Academy of Pediatrics RadioMD suggests that schools are cutting down recess to compensate for academics. Of course, when the weather is not cooperating, plans change.

So, teachers need to accommodate recess time. While indoor recess is not ideal, activities inside keep children safe during harsh weather conditions.

However, when the weather is adequate for playing, that time could be spent outdoors playing and making connections. As a result, many schools have parents as volunteers to help with recess time and to monitor children while playing outside.

Regardless of the weather or volunteer sign-ups, outdoor play is essential for the physical and emotional well-being of children. 

Health Drawbacks of Lack of Playing Outside

Besides the physical benefits and social advantages of outdoor play, spending time outdoors increases Vitamin D intake. Why is Vitamin D so vital for the growth of children?

Vitamin D is essential for developing strong bones. As a result, children spend less time outdoors and receive less Vitamin D.

Other sources can supplement Vitamin D like milk and fish oils. Yet, they can’t replace connections between peers.

  • While being in direct sunlight has pros and cons, spending 20 to 30 minutes outdoors still benefits children.
  • However, excessive sunlight rays are harmful if you don’t use protective sunglasses, clothing, and sunscreen.
  • Regardless of sunscreen usage to counteract harmful UV rays, spending enough time in a fresh air environment improves moods, attention, and creativity.
  • Another way to prevent sunburn or concern with UV rays is to play at specific times when the sun rays are not harmful.
  • Most likely, a low incidence of harmful UV rays is during the early morning or late evening.
  • For more accurate information, you can always check the weather report for the high UV index.

Outdoor play is a fantastic time for children to develop more than social skills. Children can interact with peers, create innovative games, and enjoy nature.

While technology is significant for children to form other cognitive abilities, virtual playing does not replace actionable playground time.