We all know how taking a moment or a vacation outside can soothe our souls, challenge our bodies, and leave us refreshed and ready to face the world. The benefits of quality time outside extend throughout our lifetimes but is particularly critical during childhood. Here are three reasons to make sure kids get plenty of quality time outside.
Being Outside Supports Mental and Physical Health
Outdoor play often involves the whole body. Kids work on balance as they cross logs and rocks; coordination; spatial awareness as they pick up sticks and dodge through habitats to play tag, and fine motor skills as they find and investigate tiny seeds and bugs. Being outside also helps kids with their mental health. Free play outside improves kids’ social skills, allows them to take risks and determine what is an appropriate risk, and develop the ability to make good decisions. Kids who spend frequent free time outside also suffer less from anxiety and depression and can see some improvement of issues like ADHD.
Being Outside Helps Kids Learn
Kids learn better outside. Using the outdoors as a teaching tool means that kids are more engaged and can relate better to what is being taught, both of which are widely understood to improve learning and retention. Language, problem-solving, and connecting concepts are all easier to teach and learn in an outdoor setting. Lessons outside are often more practical and hands-on, which means students get to really dive into learning rather than just passively absorbing information.
Being Outside Helps Kids Form Values
Research has shown that during the formative years of life, kids develop perceptions and values about their environment. Spending time outdoors, especially planting native plants, participating in sustainable hunting or fishing, or volunteering on habitat improvement projects is a powerful example of good land stewardship. Experts have demonstrated that young children are driven to explore, discover and play while refining motor skills. Exposing kids to a variety of natural areas allows students to exercise these needs while nurturing the development of a land ethic that values natural spaces. If a child grows up never walking in the woods, digging in soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of the sage steppe, they may never really understand what there is to be lost.
There are so many reasons to get outside, supported by all of the latest research in education and child development, but we saved the best reason of all for last. It’s fun! Go ahead, whether you have kids, grandkids, or are a kid at heart, and have some fun outside this summer!