This content was provided by Early Learning Everyone Benefits, a Playgroup NSW content partner.
How many of us remember the joy we felt when we played ‘make-believe’ in our backyard or the local park, or squelched about in mud when it rained? With the time pressures of today society and concerns for children’s safety, spending time outside has become something we need to plan and supervise. Nonetheless, the benefits of playing in nature are well worth the effort.
Below is some insightful information into the benefits of playing in nature by Nature Play QLD and the University of North Carolina.
1. Brings the best out of children
It’s estimated that children nowadays spend 56 percent more time indoors than playing outside.
Playing indoors seems to be an easy option since we don’t have to worry about sun, snow, rain, strangers and other risk factors. However, this controlled environment limits a child’s potential. The benefits of playing in nature are almost infinite. Spending time in nature keeps children’s minds fresh. It exposes them to varying situations where they are forced to learn and adapt to best fit themselves into the prevailing conditions. For instance, playing in uneven heights, conditions and surfaces helps children to hone their coordination and balancing skills.
2. Increases resilience and ability to negotiate risks
Climbing on trees or other objects helps children understand the risks involved in the process and thus being better at risk assessment. Even if children sustain a minor injury, something in them grows. They also learn problem-solving skills and develop a deeper appreciation towards physical activities.
3. Social benefits
When going outside, children get plenty of opportunities to interact with other playmates. In nature, they can connect with others, help each other, share their learning and solve problems together. Children often collaborate to have the best experience. They might also find a friend to reach out to when consoling themselves during times of need. Moreover, it helps children to act freely, while not escaping their responsibilities.
4. Physical and mental benefits
The outdoor environments that we see on the screens can be far different in the real world. The only way to truly experience nature to the fullest is to step outside—from the singing birds, buzzing bees, the taste of wild berries and beautiful sunsets, to the other quieter miracles. No electronic device can replace the natural association with Mother Nature.
Direct association with nature has both mental and physical benefits. It has also been proven to improve mood, reduce depression and mental fatigue. Children who are involved in regular outdoor play benefit from increased flexibility and gross motor skills. More outdoor time also improves vision and reduces body inflammation.
5. Promotes 'smartness'
It is proven that nature provides children with a buffer from stress. One 2015 study in California, involving 60 participants, showed how walking in nature can eliminate stress. It can also promote ‘smartness’ in children.
Spending time in nature and outdoors improves children’s ability to focus and concentrate. Studies in the US show that schools that use outdoor classrooms, and other forms of nature-based experiential education, support significant student gains in social studies, science, language, arts and mathematics. Students in outdoor science programs improved their science testing scores by 27 per cent (American Institutes for Research, 2005).
6. Improves self confidence
You can help with your children’s confidence by letting them connect with nature—where the child can face the real world.
Nature can act as a great healing tool for children who suffer from low self-esteem. Children who are exposed to the natural world experience more self-control, peace and discipline. Armed with such gifts, a person’s confidence level is sure to elevate to the next level.
7. Improves nutrition, reduces obesity
Studies show that children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and to show higher levels of knowledge about nutrition They are also more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout their lives.
8. Build up immune system and reduces illness
Children who play more in the natural world fall sick less often than those children who usually stay indoor. Regular exposure to the outside world boosts one’s immune system. As a result, a child is able to combat illness better. It also specifically improves eyesight.
9. Reduces stress
Study also shows that green plants and vistas reduce stress among highly stressed children. Locations with a greater number of plants, greener views and access to natural play areas show more significant results.
The original article is from Early Childhood Australia, Early Learning Everyone Benefits. Please go here for original article