Why do Children Need Outdoor Play

It’s no secret that breathing fresh air and taking in scenic views of nature does a body good, and over the past few years, parents and educators have been working diligently to help youngsters enjoy these benefits. Dr. Susanne Preston, a clinical mental health counseling instructor at South University in Virginia Beach, recently discussed even more reasons for families to get outside.
One of the top benefits people young and old gain from spending time engaged in outdoor activities is lower stress levels.
“The fresh air and sunlight have the largest benefits, for example, with increased exposure to natural sunlight, incidents of seasonal affective disorder decrease. When individuals are exposed to natural sunlight, the vitamin D in their skin helps to elevate their moods.”
Preston goes on to say that research has also shown how being outside helps people cope with certain mental illnesses. Those who benefit most include people suffering from depression and anxiety. Being outdoors helps them stay calm while also improving their self-esteem.
Children and Nature Network executive assistant Robyn Bjorrnson backs these truths and believes commnuities need to engage in outdoor play to hone in on creativity and their individuality.
“Children who regularly experience nature play are healthier, happier, and test better in school.  Studies indicate that direct exposure to nature can relieve the symptoms of attention-deficit disorders, improve resistance to stress and depression, increase self-esteem, stimulate cognitive development and creativity, as well as reduce myopia and lower child obesity.”
Bjorrnson adds there are plenty of ways for parents to connect their own children with their natural surroundings. Every outdoor experience – from going for bike rides and using playground equipment, to taking trips to the beach or hiking in nearby woods – helps to grow a bond between the youngsters and the outdoors.
Being in nature can also help healthy kids stay active each day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports youngsters need to get at least 60 minutes of daily exercise to grow strong. Natural play encourages children to get moving without even realizing they are breaking a sweat.
It’s part of our job now to provide stimulating, well designed, multi-generational recreational playspaces that encourage our communities outdoors, and keep them active, safe and healthy!