Imagine this: you just got home from work, dinner needs to be made, the kitchen counters are strewn with crumbs and dishes from breakfast, and your kids are tugging at your sleeve asking for permission to play video games or watch television. You want to withhold screen time and tell your kids to go play outside, but your shoulders are already beginning to brace against the whining about there being “nothing to do,” sibling fights, and constant requests for help and intervention. The screens tempt you with an hour or more of kid-free time to just get the bare necessities of life completed hassle-free. The choice seems virtually cost free in the moment but what if this becomes the after school routine? What are the actual costs and benefits?
Outdoor play is not easily replicated indoors. Children’s ability to interact with each other and the world around them is fundamentally different in an outdoor context. The opportunities for exploration, movement, creativity, social interaction, and entrepreneurship are much wider and more varied. Outdoor play has been shown to benefit children’s emotional development, social development, executive function (the mental processes of planning, executing, negotiating, prioritizing and problem solving), and appreciation of the natural world. In short, kids who grow up with a great deal of outdoor play statistically are more mentally, emotionally, socially and physically balanced as children and adults.
What does science say?
This article shows a link with outdoor play and decreased incidence of psychiatric disorders.
This article shows a decrease in ADHD symptoms when increasing outdoor play.
This article links improved sleep patterns with increased outdoor and decreased screen time.
This comprehensive article from the AAP discusses the importance of play in a wide range of developmental arenas – sensory, physical, psycho-social, and intellectual.
But who has time to read all of those articles? It’s not like we as parents don’t recognize that outdoor play is in our kids’ best interests. The hard part is implementation. Well, the parents behind 1000 Hours Outside want to help. On their blog, they talk about how 1000 hours outside is sometimes an unattainable goal, but every effort you make to reach it will come back as benefits to your child. They have tips and strategies to help you increase that precious outdoor time. For regular snippets of encouragement and ideas, you can find their Facebook page here.
Do you have strategies or stories about how outdoor play has impacted your family? Share them on our Facebook page!