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Why Playgrounds Still Matter!

Playgrounds, laughter, and fun are three important parts of childhood. They naturally go along with active play such as running, jumping and exploring nature. Unfortunately, there are many children who don't venture outside except when they must. In many cases, this is because they prefer other activities such as playing video games, chatting with friends online, or watching TV. As a result, parents can find it difficult to get their children to go outside and play or convince them that playing outside can be just as fun as playing indoors.

When children habitually avoid playing outside, both their health and their appreciation for the environment may suffer. The environment, for example, suffers because a disconnect develops between children and the environment. When this happens, they no longer appreciate or care for its beauty and wonders. Over the long term, these children turn into adults who are also disconnected from the environment and do not see its value or worth. Another very important consequence of children who don't play outside involves lack of exercise. When children do not play outdoors, it can lead to a growing population of inactive and/or overweight children and obese adults.

Health Benefits for Kids Playing Outside

By encouraging their children to play, parents are helping to promote good health, both physically and mentally. Outdoor play equals more active play. As a result, children who regularly spend time outside are typically leaner and fitter. It helps to encourage weight loss in children who are overweight and helps them to keep it off. They are also less likely to develop diseases such as diabetes. Additionally, regular exposure to things normally found outdoors, like dirt, bacteria, and animals, will help to strengthen their immune systems and reduce the likelihood of allergies and autoimmune disorders. Spending as little as 15 minutes a day outside in the sunlight also helps kids to get the daily vitamin D that they need. Vitamin D helps prevent depression and improves mood and energy levels. Additionally, vitamin D also helps to prevent future problems with the heart and bones and other health issues. Playing outdoors is even thought to be good for children's vision, as it helps to reduce the chances of becoming nearsighted. In terms of mental health, children who regularly play in parks or other outdoor areas experience lower levels of stress and anxiety.

Developmental Benefits to Playing Outdoors

A child's social and mental development is also affected by visiting parks and playing outdoors. With parental interaction, playing in nature also stimulates a child's imagination, sense of adventure, and curiosity. These things help younger children develop their reasoning, language, and math skills as they learn the names of new things that they discover or count things such as fallen leaves. A child's curiosity about nature also helps develop their science skills as they explore and parents or caregivers teach them about things such as rain, for example. Outdoor play also improves reflexes and coordination. Children diagnosed with ADHD may also experience a decrease in their symptoms when exposed to the outdoors.

Summary

Encouraging outdoor play is both the smart and healthy thing for parents to do. The wealth of benefits, from health to development, will last a lifetime and encourage future habits that are beneficial to the child as an adult and to the environment. Due to these reasons, parks are of the utmost importance for today's youth and the youth of tomorrow. Parks give children a space to play and, depending on their size, explore nature. They are also a relatively safe place to play that's away from street traffic; however, children should always be supervised when outdoors.

  • Why Children Need to Play Outside, Even in the Winter Months: Outdoor play has many positive benefits, regardless of the season. This PDF covers the various benefits to children, such as stimulating the imagination and building up immunity.

  • Taking Kids Outside: In this PDF, readers will find a list of the benefits of taking children outdoors. Parents are also given a list of things to consider before going outside to play.

  • Does Playing Outdoors Benefit Kids' Vision?: An article that discusses how outdoor play can reduce the risk of nearsightedness in children.

  • Healthy Tips for Active Play: Parents can learn all about active play by clicking on this link. This PDF discusses how children benefit from active play and how it includes the playground. The document also lists various activities for kids.

  • Outdoor Play Benefits: On this page, readers will find a brief list of benefits that come from playing outside. The article is focused on children and includes statistics.

  • Why Be Out There? Health Benefits: The National Wildlife Federation explains how kids benefit from playing outdoors. The benefits are listed by category and include benefits to body, mind, and spirit.

  • Benefits of Outdoor Play: The Healthy Alberta website discusses and lists the reasons why kids should get outside and play instead of staying indoors. Information on how nature benefits kids is included in the article, as are ideas about ways that parents can increase outdoor play time.

  • Getting Back to the Great Outdoors: An article by the American Psychological Association that discusses the importance of taking children outdoors to establish a connection with nature.

  • Outdoor Play Benefits Children: Developmental, mental, and physical benefits of taking children outdoor to play are discussed in this PDF from Purdue University.

  • The Real Benefits of Nature Play Every Day: Click this link to read a newsletter from the Nature Action Collaborative for Children. The PDF discusses nature play and how it can make children healthier. The three-page document also discusses how playing in nature can make children smarter and more relaxed.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart