The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Your Child

The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Your Child

Regular physical activity and exposure to the outdoors are two important keystones of child health. They are so important, in fact, that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has detailed guidelines on healthy levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviour for children aged 5 to 17. AIHW’s directive is to engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily, muscle strengthening activities at least 3 times a week, and no more than 120 minutes of screen time per day.

But according to the agency, “the majority of children and adolescents are not meeting the physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines.” In fact, only 12% of Australian children achieve an ideal balance between physical activity and sedentary behaviour, with the vast majority now prone to spending long hours in front of a TV, computer, or mobile phone screen—and little to no time exercising outdoors.

What does science have to offer a possibly worried parent like yourself? How can you motivate your child to set their mobile device down and have some good clean fun on an outdoor play equipment instead?

For starters, you as a parent should know exactly the kind of benefits that your child can get from spending more time outdoors. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to design a daily routine for your child that is more in keeping with national health guidelines. Here are some of them:

  1. Outdoor play will help your child get their daily dose of Vitamin D. Playing outdoors in the sunshine is as just as important as diet when it comes to providing kids with the vitamin D they need. Sunlight is required by the body to synthesise this essential vitamin, which is an important nutrient for building immunity, for bone development, and for promoting regular sleep.
  2. Outdoor play can strengthen your child’s upper body, core, and grip. When using backyard play equipment, children have the opportunity to develop their aerobic skills. An exercise routine done on monkey bar play equipment, for example, will help them increase their muscle strength, stamina, manual grip, and overall fitness.
  3. Outdoor play enables cell myelination, which is essential to your child’s muscle memory and overall neural growth. Regular play inspires cell myelination, or the production of a special coating that helps the nervous system function properly. Enhanced myelin production in the body, as you may know, increases both muscle memory and the brain’s overall capacity to process information. The more myelin produced during periods of play and exercise, the better a child will be at performing complex movements and carrying out tasks with heightened aptitude.
  4. Outdoor play can improve your kid’s other sensory skills. Outdoor play has also been the subject of a number of scientific studies in recent years for its role in improving other sensory capabilities, like distance vision. For example, research done by Goldschmidt and Jacobsen (2014) and Rose et al (2016) have suggested that outdoor play lowers the chances of nearsightedness in children.
  5. Outdoor play encourages your kids to practice their executive functioning skills. Whether they’re on the monkey bars, in the sandbox, or climbing up the ladder of a slide, there are myriad opportunities for your child to refine their executive functioning skills, or their skills related to planning, focusing attention, remembering instructions, making judgement calls, and multitasking.
  6. Outdoor play helps children socialise with their peers. As you can imagine, outdoor play also exposes kids to social situations where they can learn how to build their confidence and even have the chance to make friends.
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The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Your Child

Simply put, outdoor play is really more than just “child’s play.” Modern-day research shows that playing outdoors has a considerable effect on your youngster’s physical, mental, and emotional development. Raise a healthy child on regular outdoor play, and up their chances of becoming an equally healthy adult later in life!

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