Let’s face it; many of our kids have been cooped up during the pandemic. Out of caution, some parents may have limited outdoor activities. Parks, pools, beaches, and other recreational spaces have been closed. Even before the pandemic, we know that most children weren’t spending as much time outdoors as previous generations of kids. While precautions may be necessary, it is vitally important to get our kids playing outdoors again. Outdoor playtime can have incredible benefits for our children, of all ages, particularly during times of high stress or anxiety. 

One benefit of outdoor play is that it allows them to get fresh air and a good dose of sunshine. While overexposure to the sun certainly can increase the risk of skin cancer, our bodies still require sunlight to produce vitamin D. Many body processes such as bone development and a healthy immune system require vitamin D.

Besides boosting their immune system by producing vitamin D, outdoor playtime can also improve mood and encourage healthy sleep patterns. Studies that indicate time spent in nature can help mitigate feelings of anxiety and depression and even reduce symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  

Regular outdoor play encourages curiosity and self-directed activities. Children who play outside are more likely to initiate activities and stick with them longer. Research shows that executive functioning skills such as planning, prioritizing, negotiating, problem-solving, and even imagination are exercised when children must devise ways to entertain themselves outdoors. 

We also know that playing outside allows children to exercise and employ gross motor skills. By ensuring outdoor exercise, we can help prevent or reduce childhood obesity. 

Another possibly surprising benefit of outdoor play is a reduced risk of nearsightedness or myopia. Along with developing better distance vision, we know that children learn through their senses. Time outdoors allows for the stimulation of multiple senses instead of indoor activities like watching television, reading, and playing video games that typically only engage one or two. 

With all of these fantastic benefits and more, it is easy to see why outdoor play is essential for children’s development and well-being. So while we want to be cautious about spreading coronavirus, that doesn’t mean children must be kept indoors. We must encourage our children to play and spend time outdoors. 

If you’re looking for COVID-safe activities for your children, HealthyChildren.org has provided tips and ideas here.

Article originally published at https://dredwardthalheimer.co/