Benefits of Children Playing Outdoors

By: Mollie Shauger | Thursday, June 27, 2019 | Summer Camp

A butterfly lands on a boy's finger.

One of the great things about summer camp is that kids get a chance to be outside, get dirty and learn about the natural world. 

When kids are outdoors they are learning, being active and improving their health in a variety of ways. Here’s a look at how nature can benefit children of all ages.

Encourages creativity 

Children can exercise their creativity and problem-solving skills when they’re able to play with natural elements like sticks, mud, trees or water.

Teaches kindness 

Spending time outdoors makes children more aware of their natural surroundings and helps them develop a connection with the environment. Through nature they can learn empathy and the proper way to treat living things. 

Relieves stress and anxiety

Studies have shown that just taking a walk in the woods can relieve stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and improve one’s mood. The sunlight is also known to increase the levels of a hormone called serotonin in the body, which can elevate feelings of happiness and calmness. 

Boosts immunity

The fresh air we breathe helps protect plants from diseases, and can do the same in humans. The chemicals in the air can help our bodies fight off tumor- and virus-infected cells.

Improves attention and focus

Getting outdoors gives kids’ brains a break from structured learning, and allows them to practice an effortless type of attention that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue. Also, research has linked the outdoors to a reduction in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder symptoms in children. One study found that just 20 minutes in a park setting was enough to elevate attention performance. 

Promotes physical fitness

The outdoors provides numerous opportunities for exercising, and health experts say kids 6 years of age and older should be getting at least an hour of physical activity each day. Kids who are more regularly active have a reduced risk of diseases, lower stress, better sleep and do better in school, among other benefits.

Builds confidence

Letting kids try new activities, whether it be fishing or kicking a soccer ball, gives them control over their own actions and decisions. Even learning to climb a tree can boost a child’s confidence, knowing that they completed a difficult task on their own.

Stimulates the senses

Nature employs all the senses - in ways that screens and technology cannot. Being outdoors gives kids’ eyes and ears a break from electronics and helps them to understand real colors, shapes, sizes and more.

Visit metroymcas.org to learn more about summer camps at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.


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