Most people are aware of the physical benefits of playing outdoors, but did you know that outside activity also has emotional benefits? Kids of all ages need this unstructured time to interact with peers, test out new skills and choose their own fun.
Sadly, kids only spend about 4 to 7 minutes a day in outdoor unstructured play, but over 7 hours in front of the screen. It’s time to bring back outdoor play in our communities! Let’s explore five emotional benefits of playing in Mother Nature.
1. Learn to Share and Take Turns
Unstructured outdoor play helps kids learn how to share, take turns and practice other positive behavioral skills. This is especially important with the pandemic, as many kids have to social distance and wear masks at school. Whether it’s waiting for a turn on the slide or sharing the swings, elementary school playgrounds provide endless opportunities for social and emotional development.
2. Gain Confidence through New Skills
Have you ever seen how excited a child is to try the “big” slide at the park or master the monkey bars? Spending time outdoors allows kids to practice and apply new skills such as running, jumping and climbing. As they work on these skills, they gain confidence in their abilities, even if they fail the first few times.
3. Increase Attention Spans
Children who play outdoors are more curious, have longer attention spans and are more likely to stick with a task. On the other hand, children who are only exposed to structured activities have a harder time with self-directed play. By getting kids into the habit of making their own fun, they are more likely to grow up having a strong initiative, perseverance and life satisfaction.
4. Boost Mood and Happiness
Anxiety and depression affect many children between the ages of 3-17. Spending time outdoors is an effective way to reduce symptoms, instill healthy habits and teach kids good coping skills. Outdoor light also stimulates the pineal gland, which is responsible for making us feel happier. And as a bonus, running around and getting exercise releases feel-good endorphins in the brain.
5. Build Friendships
Friendships help kids develop emotionally and socially. When interacting with others, kids learn how to communicate, cooperate and solve problems. And what better place to meet friends than at the playground! Commercial playgrounds are where children in the community meet up and build their first friendships.
At its core, unstructured outdoor play looks basic, but it’s a critical part of being a child and growing into a confident, independent and happy adult. To discuss the addition of a new or updated playground for your school, daycare or community, contact Park and Rec Pros today.