Health Benefits of Outdoor Play

Exercise and sunshine are good for kids spiritually, socially and physically. However, there are some surprising health benefits to getting out that may encourage more parents to tear their youngsters away from electronic entertainment more often.

Improves Vision

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, kids who play outside have a lower risk of myopia, or nearsightedness. Researchers found that the risk of myopia dropped 2% for each hour per week spent outdoors. The study lists outdoor play as a simple strategy to prevent myopia.

Promotes Social Skills

The University of Missouri-Kansas’ School of Education conducted a study that revealed the brain-boosting benefits of outdoor play— beginning in infancy. All that running, jumping and swinging on the playground enhances a child’s emotional, social and cognitive development. The social aspect helps kids improve language skills as well.

Increases Attention Span

For those watching children at play, it may seem as if they jump from one game to the next or one ride to the next. However, outside play actually increases their attention spans.

Approximately 6.4 million kids between 4 and 17 have some form of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s an astonishing number. Fortunately, studies show that natural settings seem to alleviate ADHD symptoms—so exposure to parks and beaches on the weekend and after-school programs. Experts are realizing more and more that outdoor activities can reduce attention deficit symptoms in kids.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Spending time running around outside helps kids forget a tough test or being teased in the lunchroom. There’s even data to back this up. According to research by the University of Colorado, green schoolyards reduce stress and increase resilience. Researchers concluded that children’s exposure to outdoor spaces may decrease stress levels because it gives them an escape from their school or home routine. The study stated that kids can find peace and fun when they get out of the classroom or the house. Anyone who’s seen kids jumping up and down in a bounce house knows what stress-free living is. For those purchasing inflatable equipment for parties or school programs, placing it in a green setting can maximize the benefits to kids and party guests.

Increases Vitamin D Intake

The American Academy of Pediatrics touts the higher levels of vitamin D intake gleaned from spending more time outdoors. Vitamin D is crucial in strengthening bones and can even help prevent heart disease and diabetes. To prevent vitamin D deficiency, the Cleveland Clinic says that child care providers should include outdoor play in their schedule whenever possible. Kids should also receive a vitamin D in enriched dairy and other products—but the best way to get it is for free with lots of sunshine.

For parents and teachers looking for reasons to send kids outdoors more often, science supports the decision. Health and well-being are closely connected to time spent in natural settings.

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