Have Your Kids Discover the Fun, Benefits of Playing in Nature

by Blake Herzog

There are so many good things children get from playing outside, from the obvious (hands-on learning about nature) to the not-quite-so-intuitive (reduced risk of nearsightedness). Here are a few more of the benefits kids get from outdoor play:

Getting exercise — The CDC recommends children ages 3 to 5 stay active throughout the day and those ages 6-17 get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Research shows they (and adults) are more likely to exercise for longer periods when they are outside. If you give a kid a ball or bike, and a little room to roam, that hour goes by in a hurry!

Exposing to sun — We all need vitamin D, especially kids whose bones are growing and immune systems developing. Solar rays are our chief source of D at all ages, while they play other roles in building immunity, improving mood and encouraging better sleep by keeping us in tune with our circadian rhythms.

Connecting with nature — No matter how advanced technology gets it’ll never replace learning about the natural world by being part of it. Regular outdoor play lets kids observe the seasons, examine leaves, bark and rocks, watch streams flow and see how animals, large and small, interact with the environment.

Taking risks — The uncontrolled nature of nature means it’s inherently riskier, something which can unnerve parents and children. But it also gives kids a taste of what it means to evaluate and navigate the world, making decisions that will have consequences. In most cases a parent or caregiver is nearby but at just enough distance for the child to experience a sense of independence.