Many of us would agree about the importance of getting outside for kids (and even adults), but how many of us are really getting out there? Once the pandemic hit we started spending a significant amount of time outdoors. We went to the beach, hiked, biked, played on our playground, did scavenger hunts and whatever else we could get ourselves into. If I am being honest, our kids were outside “bored” for hours per day and always found something fun to get themselves into! All of this really got me thinking about the importance of the outdoors for our kids. Heck, when I was young, I was outside for HOURS every single day! I worry that kids in this day and age are getting less and less of that wonderful unstructured play outdoors and I want to create a MOVEMENT to get it back. I started reading quite a few books that have supported this idea and have found them wonderful resources (listed below). Within this post you will find some articles/research that I have found that connect children with nature and all of it’s positive benefits! Keep tagging me in all of your IG stories when you venture outside, I love seeing them!
Books I have been reading or books that I am about to read:
This study from 2012 measured the frequency of parent supervised outdoor play in preschool aged children and the results were pretty alarming. The results were as follows:
44% percent of mothers and 24% of fathers reported taking their child outside to play at least once per day
51% of children were reported to go outside to play at least once per day with either parent
58% of children who were not in child care went outside daily
The CDC recommends that children ages 3-5 years be physically active throughout the day to help with growth and development. It recommends that children ages 6-17 get at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day 3 days a week and activities that build muscle for 3 days a week.
BEING OUTSIDE WILL GET YOUR CHILD ACTIVE AND THEY WILL ALSO BE HAPPIER.
HERE IS PROOF:
One of the most interesting of all of this information is this experimental study that was coordinated by the Natural Resources Institute (Finland) that showed immune systems were improved when children were exposed to a forest based play yard. (link to the study here)
This study of 20,000 people tells us that we need at least 2 hours outside per week to be healthier and happier
Outdoor spaces can help to reduced depression, anxiety, and health risks (study here) This article in science alert links to a few studies that associate less psychiatric disorders in adults (such as anxiety and depression) when they are exposed to nature at a young age.
Some studies (check out this one here) link to positive structural changes in the brain when exposed to green spaces.
The amount of Americans affected by myopia has jumped almost 20% from 1970-2000s according to this study. There is a pretty substantial amount of research that suggests that playing outdoors can lower a child’s risk of developing myopia. Being outdoors forces you to look farther into the distance (as opposed to constantly looking at an iPad, phone screen or other objects closely while indoors). Exposure to the lighting outdoors may also help since it decreases the axial growth of the eye. This study that was performed in China followed children who added 40 minutes of outdoor play to their days and in three years, were less likely to develop myopia.
This study of 337 school aged children in rural NY found that the presence of nearby nature can strengthen a child’s resilience against stress!
This is a great article to read: the importance of outdoor play for young children’s healthy development
In this study participants who went on a 90 minute walk in a natural setting were less likely to ruminate than those who walked in an urban setting. Think about the benefits that this can have on the developing brain of a child! It also showed reduced neural activity in the area of the brain that is linked to risk for mental illness.
Also, another study out of Denmark that suggests exposure to nature is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders later on in life.
In case you needed one last reason to get outside, think about your exposure to Vitamin D – especially in the winter months! Many are deficient in this essential vitamin and it can reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis, reduce your likelihood of developing the flu, and decrease your chance of developing heart disease.
Oh, and children that are connected with nature will be more likely to be environmentally friendly as they grow older. Win – win!
One last resource that I want to talk about is Ginny from 1000 hours outside. One of you sent me over to her account when I first started talking about this and I LOVE it. She suggests that getting outdoors with your kids for 4-6 hours a day is ideal but that she can only do that a few times a week. Now obviously that would be in a perfect world because many of us work and are not able to physically take them outdoors ourselves for that long. This is why I would love to see schools institute more learning outdoors! When your kids get home from school, have them go outside until dinner! This is something I did as a child all the time! If your child is outside 330-530 Monday through Friday – you just logged 10 hours of outdoor play for the week! Ginny has trackers here that you can print out and have your kids join you in tracking their hours outdoors! I loved this article with Ginny in Parents.