We all know that outdoor play benefits cardiovascular health and offers kids a much-needed break from electronic media … but did you know that’s just the beginning?
As you encourage the families in your community to visit your playground, take the opportunity to educate them on the lesser-known benefits of playing outdoors:
Improved Attention Spans
According to a study reported in the American Journal of Public Health, time spent outdoors, particularly in greener settings, improved symptoms in children with ADHD, regardless of gender, socioeconomic factors, or environment (urban versus rural). Even when children engaged in the same type of activity indoors and outdoors (running, climbing, etc), it was the outdoor activity that showed a positive effect on ADHD symptoms.
Enhanced Social Skills
Because playground equipment must be shared, kids must work out among themselves who gets to do what, when, and for how long. Not everyone can go down the slide at the same time, for example, so kids must learn how to cooperate — how to make sure everyone gets a turn and how to wait for theirs. Even when it looks like they’re “just running around,” they’re actually learning the ABCs of cooperation, fair play, and respect for others.
Better vision through outdoor play? According to two separate studies in Australia, the answer is yes. Data from the Orinda Longitudinal Study of Myopia showed that children of myopic parents who spend sufficient time outside are at only slightly greater risk for developing myopia than children without myopic parents. And results from the Sydney Myopia Study suggest that greater time spent outside can override the myopia risks associated with near work and schooling.
The precise reason for this benefit is not yet clear, but it could involve pupil constriction in the brighter outdoor light, which results in greater depth of focus, or it could be a direct effect of the light exposure itself. Whatever the reason, parents in your community who are concerned with their kids’ visual health should be encouraged to take advantage of your playground and other outdoor amenities.
Yes, kids can have stress, especially those who have busy schedules both within and outside of school. Studies show that regular outdoor play can alleviate symptoms of stress and also ward off more serious concerns such as depression and anxiety.
Spending time in the sunshine — even during winter when the sun is not as warm — boosts kids’ Vitamin D levels. This important vitamin can help young bodies ward against bone problems and heart disease in the future and can even boost mood, energy levels, and memory. Studies show that even 10-15 minutes of outdoor exposure can boost Vitamin D levels and the related benefits.
So the next time someone asks why your community needs a playground, tell them you’re providing a vital resource to help families raise happier, healthier kids — in more ways than one!