Kids today are spending less time outdoors due to an increasing focus on academics at school and the influence of technology at home and everywhere. Yet, too much time spent playing video games and a lack of recess at school is taking a toll on the childhood experience. Obesity, behavioral problems and low self-esteem are just a few issues that have been popping up during the past few years. Fortunately, spending just a few hours outside each day can provide kids with benefits that will enhance their overall physical and mental wellbeing.Strengthened Immune SystemsAlthough many parents associate digging in the dirt with an increased risk of exposure to germs, while the opposite is actually true. When kids spend time interacting with nature, they have a lower risk of developing allergies and illnesses. Additionally, exposure to sunshine boosts vitamin D levels which can give kids a leg up on better cardiovascular health and stronger bones.
Social Skill DevelopmentWhen kids play outside with their peers they enjoy new opportunities to develop social skills that will transfer to every area of their life. For example, outdoor sports such as soccer promote leadership and teach kids how to work with others as a team to accomplish goals.Exposing kids to safe risks, such as whitewater rafting and windsurfing, also develops self-confidence regarding their ability to tackle new challenges. During their outdoor play, kids will often be exposed to situations that enable them to develop problem-solving skills such as deciding how to conquer a ropes course.Stress ManagementToday, kids are more stressed than ever before and many of them exhibit negative behaviors due to pent up energy. Spending time outdoors provides the perfect place for them to run in wide-open spaces so that they can burn off their energy and escape from their daily stress. When kids exercise outdoors in green spaces, their bodies also release endorphins that promote relaxation.Appreciation for NatureA child who spends all of their time inside never gets to experience the wondrous moments that occur in nature such as the way the dew appears on the grass each morning or how it feels to take in the view after a hike. Yet outdoor experiences can change a child’s world view by showing them the importance of caring for their environment. Water sports, hiking and camping are all activities that can teach kids to respect the power of nature and learn to interact within a natural environment while also staying safe. Additionally, both growing a garden and caring for animals provide a way for kids to learn more about science while developing a sense of responsibility along the way. Outdoor experiences should be an important part of every growing child’s life while also making sure to include a well-balanced set of opportunities. Free play, team sports and guided risk-taking experiences should all be incorporated so they can enjoy the full package of benefits that comes with stepping outside. From better overall health to a more positive sense of self, kids have much to gain from getting some fresh air and beautiful sunshine every day.