The importance of outdoor play for children is critical. It can lead to enhanced academic performance and a healthier lifestyle.
Why Is Outdoor Play Important?
Outdoor play enhances almost all aspects of physical health, from bone health to circulation, to eye health, to immunity. These advantages continue to bring in benefits for a child and his or her experiences in the world as they grow.
But that’s not all.
Emotionally and socially, children who enjoy outdoor play learn how to take risks, make confident choices, experiment, relate, burn off excess energy and develop creativity.
Academically, the benefits of outdoor play in infants and older children enhances their concentration, learning experience, memory, recall and cognitive functions.
Keep on reading to discover ten incredible benefits of outdoor play in detail.
1. Improves Circulation
Circulation relates to the way our blood flows throughout our bodies. We need our blood to flow at a healthy rate to maintain good health. When we have good circulation, we have a better chance of concentrating, sleeping better, and generally good health. But when we don’t, we suffer many consequences of poor circulation such as fatigue, cognitive dysfunction and other ailments that can influence our ability to concentrate, like tingling hands and feet, cold hands, digestive disorders and so on.
Can you imagine the impact of this on children trying to study in your school?
The consequences can be dire. They might miss school due to illness or be unable to sit still and concentrate. Studies have shown that children need outdoor play to aid circulation today like never before and furthermore, many organisations are discussing the need for schools to step up and take the lead in the fight against poor circulation.
2. More Active Lifestyle
A surprising benefit that comes from improving a child’s circulation is that their levels of inactivity in and out of school drops.
A study on Promoting Physical Activity in Children and Youth shows that when you encourage activity in school, through exercise or outdoor play, children’s lifestyles become more active. They are more alert and therefore healthier mentally and physically.
3. Better Concentration
Have you ever felt that you need to go for a walk to clear your mind and improve your concentration during work?
For some people, some light walking is a lifeline that gets them through a mentally challenging day. There’s a reason for this. An article in The Scientific American discusses the reasons why we think better after exercise, and it’s because it improves our blood flow. You can help the children in your school have the best opportunity to learn by encouraging exercise through outdoor play.
4. Improves Working Memory
Research shows that outdoor play improves executive functions. Such functions include cognitive processes like working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control, all of which are associated with enhanced academic performance and positive social outcomes in children.
A combination of aerobic exercise and other types of outdoor play involving the changing conditions of nature and pretend play appear to be the main factor that contributes to these advantages.
5. Develops Risk Taking Skills
Children need to learn how to take appropriate risks safely. It’s a vital part of their development.
An article from Harvard Health Blog discusses how risk-taking improves a child’s confidence and social development. Outdoor play is an excellent way to help a child develop their risk-taking skills.
6. Reduces The Risk Of Near-sightedness
A fantastic benefit of outdoor play for infants and older children alike is the fact that it improves a child’s eyesight and reduces the risk of near-sightedness as the child ages.
According to Parenting Science, there are plenty of studies showing positive links between outdoor time and eye health. Perhaps in the future, we will even see opticians prescribing more outdoor time for our children who have short-sightedness. But in the meantime, it’s a massive benefit of outdoor play.
7. Calms Anxiety And Breeds Confidence
Play Scotland reports many benefits of outdoor play in winter, in all seasons, and for all ages. They claim that outdoor play is vital for children’s health, development and a memorable childhood. One notable benefit of outdoor play for infants cited by Play Scotland is how it aids a child’s emotional development by reducing anxiety and instilling a sense of confidence.
When children immerse themselves in their activities, they express and work out their emotions while developing a healthy understanding of relationships. When these experiences turn out to be positive for the child, their confidence grows.
8. Increases Attention Span
Nothing brings children closer to the wonders of nature than being out in nature. Especially when children get to experiment with stimuli like sticks, flowers, soil, water, they invoke curiosity and provide plenty of opportunities to play and learn.
It’s this type of learning that brings on huge benefits of outdoor play because it connects a child with nature, breeding creativity, problem-solving, and a solid relationship with nature.
9. Builds Physical Health
Running, throwing balls, lifting, carrying, measuring and weighing soil or water, building with sticks, and jumping all aid motor skills, and many of them encourage aerobic activities and creativity.
It’s these positive experiences that will develop immunity (from playing in soil and exposure to vitamin D). It also increases circulation, bone health. All of which combine to create a positive, revitalising experience of being outdoors which will remain with them into adulthood.
10. Improves Immunity
A significant benefit of outdoor play in winter as well as in the summer is that children access micro-biodiversity, which improves their immune systems. According to The Guardian, this is because children who spend more time outdoors develop more diverse microbes on their skin and in their guts than on children who don’t have access to time outdoors.
There’s one caveat to this particular benefit of outdoor play in infants; the outdoor play area needs to be green and diverse, like mini forests rather than a gravel yard or tarmac.
The benefits of outdoor play for infants and children are jaw-droppingly vast. There’s one problem, a child benefits from outdoor play when they participate in all seasons. And the British weather can create a problem.
How Do You Provide Outdoor Play In For Your School In All Seasons?
Outdoor play is great, but there are times when you can’t take children outdoors for too long. Especially when it’s raining, cold or snowing or if children are inadequately dressed. They’ll need a base to keep warm and make the experience enjoyable.
Outdoor classrooms or outdoor learning canopies can solve this problem for you. They can range from fully enclosed, heatable shelters to shade sails which are open to the elements. Shade sails look exciting, while the best thing about outdoor classrooms is that they can become a permanent classroom giving you more space to move around in your school. Nothing is stopping you from installing some exciting-looking shade sails to go with them though for added effect!