Why kids should spend time outdoors


Why kids should spend time outdoors

Spring always feels promising- like a new beginning. The sun peeking out after colder days, flower buds blooming, baby animals. Spring’s arrival is an invitation to get outside and enjoy the outdoors! Sidewalk chalk butterflies and not uniform in size hopscotch squares, bubbles and freeze tag, lazy mornings at the park with friends, afternoons playing Marco Polo in the community pool, and biking until the sun goes down– the great outdoors is the backdrop for childhood memories.Or at least, it used to be. These days kids are spending less and less time outdoors, and the consequences are alarming! 

Trends in America

Unfortunately, more and more American children are spending less time outdoors. While in part this is due to increased urbanization, another significant reason is the abundance of structured activities that kids today are involved in (Childhood Development and Access to Nature – PMC (nih.gov). With all of these planned programs for kids, they have less opportunities to run around outside. Additionally, kids today spend significant amounts of time on electronics, whether that is the tv, video games, computer, or other similar gadget. A survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids today are 6x more likely to play a video game on any given day than they are to ride their bike. How sad!

Of course, all of this time spent indoors correlates with a decrease in physical activity. Childhood obesity rates continue to rise in the United States, especially post pandemic. American children are experiencing diabetes, obesity, stress, symptoms of depression, and other cognitive and emotional issues at ever increasing rates. And while many of these issues are complex, research continues to show that kids who spend time outdoors experience less of these problems. 

Kids benefit when they spend time outdoors

We know that children today are not making the same outdoor memories that their parents and grandparents did, and with disastrous side effects. All those little moments in the great outdoors offer some big benefits to kids. Let’s explore a bit about these benefits and recommit to getting our kids outdoors! 

It’s good for their bodies!

Chances are, if your kid is outdoors, your kid is moving! Running, jumping, climbing, skipping, biking, crawling- there are so many opportunities to get moving when engaged in outside play. This movement is good for kids as they naturally develop their gross motor skills while interacting with the world around them. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids aged 3-5 years old get at least three hours of physical activity per day. Getting your kids outdoor every day increases the likelihood that you can meet this physical activity recommendation. Playing outside is a great way to build stronger bodies, learn new skills, and get needed exposure to the sun for Vitamin D! Plus, this study shows that a child who plays outdoors tends to sleep better! Sleep deprived parents everywhere grab your sneakers and hit the parks!

It’s good for their minds!

The physical benefits of getting kids outdoors are significant, but the benefits don’t stop there! Studies show that kids who spend time outdoors experience cognitive benefits as well. These kids tend to have better executive functioning skills and higher academic performance than their peers who spend less time outdoors. Our executive functioning skills are what help us to plan and prioritize, self-monitor, regulate emotions, multitask, and more! Researchers believe that there is a link between the decreased amount of time children are spending outdoors and the drastic increase in learning and attention issues, as well as hyperactivity problems. Time outdoors helps kids with their ability to concentrate and pay attention for longer amounts of time. 

It’s good for their well-being!

Have you ever noticed how a problem can feel lighter after spending time outdoors? Adults have long realized that time spent outdoors makes them happier people. It is the same with kids! Kids who spend time outside are less likely to be stressed and more likely to be happy! Studies show that kids who spend more time outdoors are less likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Time in nature tends to spark creativity in children. When kids sped time outdoors their imaginations can run wild and their play can become anything! The exploration and adventures that a child can embark on when time outdoors can be a great confidence booster! Children need opportunities for independence. When our children embark on adventures of their own making, take risks, persevere through challenges, and come out the other side, the resilience, pride, and sense of self they develop are truly priceless. When children are allowed to enjoy unstructured play outside they are building an inner sense of self-confidence that will last them their lifetime. 

It’s good for their social life!

When kids are spending more time outdoors, they are more likely to be playing or interacting with other people. This increased social interaction offers them more opportunities to improve their social skills. Plus, when kids play outside it is often self-directed play, which not only allows them much-needed freedom and independence, it also gives them a chance to practice taking turns, problem solving with friends, and other important social skills. 

It’s good for humankind!

When kids grow up appreciating nature, they are more likely to grow into adults who appreciate and care for this earth!

There are clearly many many benefits for our kids when they spend their time outdoors- so what are you waiting for? 

Need some outdoor play ideas?

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