There are no mysteries surrounding why outdoor play benefits kids. We know this because the outdoors continues to play a role in our lives not much different from the time we were kids. On bright sunny days, outdoor play is enticing. People go bike riding, lounge in the parks, run around and enjoy the fresh air. Adults may not go outside to play tag and climb trees like kids (not that this should stop you) but the positive vibes and liberating feeling the outdoors offers us encourages an inherently active lifestyle.
The outdoors quite simply, is fun and exciting for children. In an interesting survey conducted by the large UK store chain Sainsbury’s, 1,500 children between the ages of five and eleven were asked about their preferred summer activities in order of preference. The results showed that the kids vastly preferred outdoor play, including playing in the park or in the garden as their favorite pastime. The first paid activity according to the results was going to the movie theatre, which came in at number 12 on the list.
Playing outside may not be every child’s preference, and certainly we all enjoy our time indoors as well. However, spending some time and energy outside has shown to make a significantly positive impact on a child’s health. Aside from the increase in physical activity, play and recess-like activities have been linked to healthy bodily functions such as eyesight. According to a recent article describing the results of a study published in journal Ophthalmology, kids who play outside are less likely to develop myopia, or near-sightedness, over time. The study is part of an ongoing worldwide myopic research boom over the past decade, studying the large increase in the disorder over the second half of the 21st century.
As an organization, Sports for Sharing feels strongly about the many benefits of play and recess. After all, outdoor play is especially fundamental to our program’s success in helping children become better citizens and change agents. It is integral because the outdoors and playing feature a near universally shared positive experience. The outdoors offers kids and adults alike the freedom to learn from each other, work together, play together, be active and healthy together. It is good to see play and recess, after years of erosion from schools, start to grow back into school time. Especially since outdoor play has even been found to positively affect child behavior in schools. We encourage recess and celebrate actions to encourage outdoor play, as two area state parks did as part of National Kids to Parks Day.
We know outdoor play benefits kids in so many ways, it’s important to encourage it as much as possible. And while we’re at it, take a moment a moment to step outside and enjoy the fresh air ourselves, what is there to lose?
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