It used to be that when the weather turned nice, you’d see all the neighborhood kids playing outside. They’d be jumping rope, riding bikes, kicking balls, and flying kites. They’d be hopping, skipping, running, leaping, and sliding. Everyone was happy and the world seemed right.
Today, you’ll still see kids playing on nice days. But unfortunately, most of them will probably be indoors — “playing” on their computers, TVs, and handheld game consoles. Sheesh! What’s this world coming to?
It’s finally time for parents to realize just how important it is for their kids to get fresh air and sunshine during outdoor play. Specific health benefits include:
Increased oxygen levels. The efficiency of almost all our body systems depends on high oxygen levels, which have also been linked to lower cancer risk. That’s precisely why fresh air is key.
Vitamin D absorption. Sunlight produces vitamin D, which encourages the absorption of calcium, which kids’ bodies need to develop strong bones and teeth. (Rickets is an example of extreme vitamin D deficiency in children.) Just be sure to apply adequate sunscreen protection.
Reduced vulnerability to infections. Fresh air and exercise help stave off infections, colds, and the flu by strengthening the immune system and by enabling the infectious agents to spread out and be dissipated.
Increased fitness. American children are becoming increasingly obese, caused in large part to a sedentary lifestyle. Counter this alarming epidemic by getting your kids to exercise in fresh air to increase both their physical activity and their cardiovascular endurance. Doctors suggest an hour of play a day in an effort to ward off childhood obesity and diabetes.
Reduced stress. Playing outside and connecting with nature helps to reduce worries, depression, and hyperactivity. Fresh air indisputably provides an important component to soothing, mind-body wellness.
Better breathing. Regular exercise in fresh air helps increase lung capacity, improve respiratory efficiency, and provide cleaner air for your children’s lungs. Other benefits include improved breathing technique, which in turn causes better stamina and increased energy.
Improved eyesight. Recent studies have found that children who play outdoors are less likely to be nearsighted or need eyeglasses.
A longer lifespan. The alarming fact is that doctors now estimate sedentary and obese children will lose 3-5 years from their life expectancy. Ensure that your children will grow to become healthy adults by getting them out to play now as children.
Besides these health benefits, outdoor play in fresh air and sunshine also supports:
Greater socialization. When playing outdoors, children usually get less direction from adults, enabling them to gain greater skills in negotiation, cooperation, exploration, risk-taking, and compromise. They also have more opportunities to gain independence and self-confidence, too.
Longer attention spans. Kids who continuously play with fast-paced TV and video games have much less patience and much shorter attention spans than kids who play outdoors and take a greater interest in their natural surroundings.
More creativity. The opportunity for children to use their imagination, become more resourceful, develop greater inventiveness, and expand their creativity is much greater when kids play outdoors.
Less aggression. When kids spend more time outdoors and less time witnessing the violence so prevalent on TV and in video games nowadays, they begin to see more clearly that violent behavior simply does not solve problems.
Better grades. When children become healthier in both body and mind, they tend to perform better in school as well.
The importance of outdoor play simply cannot be overemphasized. The benefits are many and the rewards even greater. So turn off the electronics and tell your kids to go out and play. You’ll be doing them a favor. A huge favor at that!
This post was written by Creative Play Plus contributor Maria Isabella. Maria is a mother, grandmother, published author, and award-winning writer with over 30 years’ experience in the advertising, marketing, and publishing industries.