One easy way to make sure your child enjoys good health and a happy future is to have them play outside. Unlike previous generations, children these days spend an increasing amount of time indoors. There are many reasons for this ranging from the growing use of electronic devices to a lack of safe outdoor areas. Still, children do need to play outside, and here are six reasons why:
While it is true that excessive exposure to sunshine can cause sunburns and increase the risk of skin cancer, your body does need sunlight. One reason is that sunshine stimulates the production of Vitamin D, which performs many vital functions like regulating the immune system and promoting the development of strong bones. Exposure to the sun also boosts mood and promotes restful sleep. Both adults and children need to get some sun every day.
Children should get at least an hour’s worth of exercise every day, and playing outside can help them get it. Yes, they could run on a treadmill indoors, but they would almost certainly have a lot more fun riding a bike or playing with a ball outside. One way to promote outdoor play is to use a quality and safe backyard playset.
Executive function describes such skills as planning, negotiating, problem-solving, and setting priorities. Creativity is another aspect of executive function, and it can help you entertain yourself or solve a problem. Children need to learn these skills, and they also need plenty of free and unstructured time to do so. They need both times with other children and time by themselves, and they need plenty of chances to figure things out on their own and make up their own games. Playing outside gives them many opportunities to develop these crucial skills.
Children also need the opportunity to take risks and thus learn what of which they are truly capable. While it may worry you as a parent to see your child take risks, they need to do so in order to develop self-confidence and courage so they can face life’s troubles head-on. Not everything is going to go to your child’s way. They may hurt themselves trying to climb a tree or be humiliated by another child. They need to learn how to handle such problems, and people learn more from their failures than they do from their successes.
Children need to learn how to interact with other children in unstructured settings. They can’t learn everything they need to know from controlled environments like school or sports teams, where an adult is running things. Children need to learn how to make friends, solve disputes, share thoughts, and how to treat each other. They also need to learn how to work together without an adult, telling them what to do.
One significant change in recent decades has been the reduction in the amount of time that children spend outdoors. A child who never goes hiking, climbing a mountain, or swimming in a river isn’t likely to develop an appreciation for nature. Children who see animals in their natural habitat will develop more interest in those animals than a child who merely sees them on TV. Children need to see nature in person to appreciate it truly and want to protect it.
So, do what your parents probably did and send your kids outside to play. Join them if you can, and do your part to make sure future generations of children can play outside.