Many parents today spent their childhood riding their bikes, climbing trees and coming home just before the street lights came on. Many children today spend much of their time indoors, playing games on their tablets or watching television. Numerous studies have shown that unstructured outdoor play is critical to the health of children. Due to our parenting style in the times we live in many children have experienced a marked decline in the time they spend in free play.
Childhood obesity is on the rise, one way to combat this is to allow children plenty of outdoor playtime. Outdoor play gives children the opportunity to run, jump, climb, swim, dance and more, all of which provide aerobic exercise and strength training. Outdoor physical activity also strengthens the immune system and improves vitamin D levels.
I work in the community services sector and see scores of children with mental health conditions. I know of numerous children with mental health issues from wealthy, healthy, mindful parents. This is a huge issue and is not going away.
It may be hard to accept that children could experience stress or suffer from conditions like depression or anxiety, but these issues are becoming more common for today’s children, who have busy schedules with school and extracurricular activities.
The neurological benefits of unstructured outdoor play extend far beyond mental health. Outdoor play also encourages learning and problem-solving skills, which can help children perform better in the classroom. Unstructured outdoor play also promotes creativity, which children can apply to their academic learning, helping them see the material in another way.
The list of benefits of our children being outdoors playing, exploring and learning from themselves and peers is endless.