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Craig Boyle

Learning young: why children need to play outside

Children are spending less time outdoors than ever before, says Craig Boyle

Posted by Hannah Oakman | December 14, 2016 | Outdoors

Nowadays, around 65% of children aged between 9 and 11 own a smartphone. In this world of ever increasing technological dependence, playing outdoors is declining at a staggering rate. Three quarters of British children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates, with 74% of our children spending less than 60 minutes outside per day. 

This increase in early uptake of technology and the decrease of outdoor play has impacted children’s ability to read emotions. The dependence on technology has also been theorised to lead to a decreased capacity for empathy – which can stunt a child’s social growth.  

Encouraging your children to play outside not only carries benefits for their social growth, it also promotes a huge variety of health benefits

Encouraging your children to play outside not only carries benefits for their social growth, it also promotes a huge variety of health benefits. 

Here, adventure playground specialists Infinite Playgrounds discuss the main reasons your children should rediscover the outdoors: 

Exercise

Most children naturally have a high metabolic rate – but increasing rates of obesity are proving that children aren’t getting enough exercise. Recent figures confirmed that 12.8% of British children aged between four and five are overweight. 9.1% are obese. Clearly, something needs to be done, as the actual figures should be practically 0%.

Playing outside encourages exercise, which burns calories, helps promote cardiovascular health and releases endorphins to help your child feel good. Keep their weight down by encouraging physical play.  

Builds problem-solving skills

Research from Burdette and Whitaker 2005 showed that children who play outdoors have more inquisitive attitudes and lower stress levels. They also play more creatively. These mental benefits are in addition to the physical health benefits, which means playing outdoors builds both physical and mental prowess. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important nutrient that supports bone health, blood pressure and has been linked to mood disorders when people don’t consume enough. Unsurprisingly, people in the UK have low levels of vitamin D exposure as we don’t get enough sunlight. Getting outdoors can help boost your levels of vitamin D, which is vital for growing children. 

Social skills

Due to the dependence of technology mentioned at the start of this article, children are less able to read emotions. They’re spending more time in a world of instant gratification, so socialising has dropped in importance. Outdoor play is critical in the development of a range of social skills – from problem solving to socialising with fellow children. Playing outside also helps children confront measured dangers, such as risky play equipment. 

With the many benefits of outdoor play in mind, it seems clear that as a society, we should be encouraging outdoor play. Children should get at least 60 minutes of play per day. In a world where most children are obsessed with screens, it’s time to take back the outdoors in order to help youngsters build vital skills.   

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