Children who play outside are engaged, active and having fun, whether they are on the swings at a playground, exploring, playing softball, riding bicycles or skateboards or just running around together. It's clear that outdoor play is a good idea, but recent studies show that it may be even more beneficial than has previously been understood.
One recent study showed that children who spent several hours playing outside each day had dramatically reduced rates of nearsightedness compared to children who spent much shorter amounts of time outside. And the difference couldn't be accounted for by how much time they spent reading or working at computers.
Schools cutting back on recess are seeing a negative effect on children's classroom performance. This supports the conclusion that time spent outdoors leads to improved attention and concentration, key factors in academic success. In addition, studies show that children with ADHD have improved focus and fewer behavioural problems when they are in natural settings.
According to child psychologist and BBC producer Tessa Livingstone, "Children who are allowed to play and explore outside are likely to be more adventurous, self-motivated and better able to understand risk when they grow up." So when children get to try things out on their own, they learn important lessons.
Benefits of Laughter
Livingstone also discovered that children who play outside laugh a lot more than children who don't. Studies show that laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, improves muscle function and even strengthens the body's immune system.
With daily reports on the rise of obesity among young people, it's clear that lots of children are not getting enough exercise. Playing outside gives children the chance to use their bodies fully, in a fun, unstructured way.
Connecting to Nature
In June 2008, government agencies and partners collaborated on the first National Get Outdoors Day. Across the country, children were introduced to outdoor activities they might not have tried before. Expanding on this idea, the Obama administration has declared June "National Great Outdoors Month." "My administration is working to connect America's youth with our treasured landscapes," Obama said. The National Park Service offers free admission at numerous parks during three weekends in 2009 to encourage people to visit.
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