Free-flowing and independent play in natural environments is crucial to achieving healthy life-style habits and robust physical and mental development.
Children’s Health and Physical Development
- A growing trend toward sedentary and inactive lifestyles amongst young children and teenagers presents a danger to their health, as well to their social development and and future choice of lifestyle. Kids who play outdoors have been shown to be fitter, healthier, and more physically confident.
- Many health benefits have been linked to regular outdoor activity and exercise. It raises metabolic rates, enabling the body to better process food, and impacting rates of growth. Clean air and exercise may help to boost natural immunity to disease. Regular exposure to sunlight increases intake of Vitamin D, and can’t be had in sufficient quantities from diets or supplements. Vitamin D is vital for bone growth, and reports have suggested that healthy exposure is linked to a decreased risk of cancer and diabetes.
- Being in the outdoors helps to improve distance vision, and may curb the effects of near-sightedness as children age.
- Playing in varied, challenging and stimulating environments is crucial to the development of a child’s physical coordination skills, helping them acquire agility, balance and fine motor skills.
- A healthy body produces a healthy mind. The health benefits of outdoor play are also linked to a boost in mental skills like memory, and increases awareness of sensation and stimulus from the four senses.
- Natural play has a calming effect on children. It is effective at reducing stress, aggression, and anxiety. It’s also thought to allow children to release excess and pent-up energy.
- This ability to release energy may be a natural way of restoring levels of attention and concentration, and can be effective for children with ADHD.
- In general, kids who play outdoors regularly have been assessed to have a greater general sense of happiness and well-being.
Note: Information presented here is based on research findings, reports and literature views from leading UK and US charities and education organizations. You can access these reports at Play England and the Children & Nature Network.