Care.com

Allyson Hepp @AllysonH45

5 Health Benefits of Playing Outside

See what health benefits outdoor play and exploring nature can offer your family.

There are many reasons kids should play outside, from expressing creativity to running freely to making messes without worrying about dirtying the house. In addition to these fun reasons, there are also many health benefits that make outdoor play great for children.

We interviewed Alyssa Ross, from KaBOOM, Debi Huang, a mom and writer behind the Go Explore Nature blog, and Lindsay Legendre, from the Natural Wildlife Federations Be Out There movement, to give us insight on the physical and mental health benefits of getting kids outside.

  1. Improves Vision
    A study reported by Optometry and Vision Science found that children who spend time outside have better distance vision than those who primarily play indoors.

  2. Promotes Social Skills
    Ross believes getting kids outside and having unstructured play promotes a wide range of skills. "On a playground not everyone gets to go down the slide first. Going to a playground with your kids is not just about running around and being active, but it's also about learning social skills, executive functions and behavioral skills as well through play."

  3. Increases Attention Span
    Huang notices the benefits of playing outside in her own kids: "The difference I see is both of my children have a high attention span comparatively speaking, and much more self-directed (they want to investigate things), where other kids might just sit back." Studies have also shown that green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children. Exposure to natural settings through after-school and weekend activities may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children.

  4. Reduces Stress
    When it comes to stress, Legendre tends to rely on natural remedies. "Spending time outside playing is such a huge outlet for stress. It's relaxing; it is healing." There is even research showing that seeing green spaces can help decrease kids' stress levels."
  5. Provides Vitamin D
    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, lots of kids are suffering from vitamin D deficiencies. This vitamin has several health benefits, including preventing kids from future bone problems, diabetes and even heart disease.

    Vitamin D can be received by supplement, but you can also get it through its free and natural version: sunlight. Have your kids play outside for a few minutes without sun screen (which blocks cancer-causing rays, but also vitamin D). Then slather on the lotion. Of course, if your child burns easily, use the sunscreen and increase the vitamin D-heavy foods and supplements.

Convinced of the benefits? Now check out these 12 Outdoor Activities for Kids ยป