6 Benefits of Outdoor Play You Never Knew

1. Opportunities for hands-on learning occasions about physical forces and new world concepts
Outdoor play doesn’t guarantee that a child will become more physically coordinated. But when children play outside, they usually have more freedom to move around and explore a variety of motor skills. They can do things that aren’t typically possible indoors – run at top speed, climb tall structures, swing from their arms. So, going outdoors is an opportunity for kids to widen their sensory experiences, and gain an intuitive, "embodied" understanding of how things work.
2. Reduced stress levels, better moods, and improved concentration
Nature experiences have a special, restorative effect. For instance, studies suggest that nature walks trigger short-term improvements in mood and stress recovery. There is also evidence to suggest that kids become more attentive and focused after playing in natural settings.
3. More naturally-attuned sleep rhythms
Outdoor play exposes children to sunlight, and is a powerful cue for programming the brain's "inner clock." Meaning it begins producing the "drowsy making" hormone, melatonin, earlier in the evening. So, if you've got a kid who stays up too late at night; increase sunlight exposure during the day and limit exposure to artificial lighting at night as it can suppress or delay the release of melatonin.
4. Reduced risk of nearsightedness
Researchers believe that playing outdoors provides the eyes with a break from “close work” like reading, and therefore decreases the risk of near-sightedness.
5. Greater exposure to bright light, which enhances health and mental performance
Exposure to sunlight helps ensure that kids get enough vitamin D, affecting numerous health issues, including bone growth, muscle function, and even the timing of puberty. Having adequate exposure to sunlight can also help tune the brain's inner clock to maintain healthy sleeping rhythms. And here's one more reason to care about your child's exposure to sunlight: bright light helps kids concentrate, and may actually enhance the formation of synapses in the brain.
6. Increased activity levels, and greater freedom to run, jump and climb
Outdoor play can boost activity levels, which is obviously a good thing. Kids need cardiovascular exercise for good health. But when we count exercise as one of the benefits of outdoor play, we should keep in mind the limitations. Some kids need additional encouragement to be physically active. Merely going outdoors isn’t enough! Playing with a buddy or sibling can help keep kids active outside. And some kids may need more positive encouragement from an adult. So, show them how to do it.

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