4 Reasons Outdoor Play is a Vital Part of Child Development

5 Reasons Outdoor Play is a Vital Part of Child Development

By: Matt Blessing, Camp Director

February can be a dreary month. Winter isn’t fresh and new anymore, and most of us are sick of the cold weather. As a parent, it’s natural to have some apprehension about continuously sending your children outside to play in what seems like a harsh climate. At Camp HotSpots we have the opposite phenomenon. It’s not uncommon for parents to have questions about how we operate in extreme heat and humidity. But whether it’s the cold or the heat, keeping your child inside may not be the “safe” or even beneficial option for your child! There are plenty of reasons why, with the proper precautions taken, outdoor play is a vital part of a healthy child’s development.

1. Outdoor play gives kids exposure to direct sunlight, which is good for their bodies and brains.

Sunlight—even the trace amounts we get on an overcast or winter day—exposes our bodies to far more natural light than what we get indoors. That’s important, because things can go wrong when children don’t get enough sunlight. Our brains “inner clock” is tuned by using light cues, so being outside actually helps children maintain healthy sleep rhythms.

Consistent exposure to sunlight also helps ensure that kids get enough vitamin D, which effects numerous health issues, like bone growth, muscle function, and even the timing of puberty.

It’s also been proven that bright light can help kids concentrate, and it may actually enhance the formation of synapses in the brain.

2. Kids get more vigorous exercise when they’re outdoors, and the effect is magnified during structured play.

It seems obvious, but it continues to be true: Kids tend to get more exercise when they play outside. This is even more true when they are part of an organized activity.

A recent study of 5- and 6- year olds found that outdoor play had a major impact on physical activity levels. Kids were twice as active when they were playing outside and for every additional hour of outdoor play, kids spent about 10 minutes more time in moderate-to-vigorous physical.

The takeaway? Outdoor play can boost activity levels, which is obviously a good thing. Kids need cardiovascular exercise for good health. There’s also evidence that exercise benefits a child’s cognitive performance.

And structure can help. In one study, adolescents obtained the most exercise during structured, outdoor activities, such as organized summer camp activities.

3. Outdoor play provides kids with the freedom and space needed to develop their natural athleticism – to run fast, jump far, and climb.

My father’s favorite rule when I was growing up? “No rough-housing!” To me and my 3 brothers it meant one thing: take it outside! Indoor spaces are cramped and filled with things that mom and dad do not want broken. But when children play outside, they usually have more freedom to move around. They can do things that aren’t typically possible indoors – run at top speed, climb tall structures, and swing from their arms. And at Camp HotSpots they have even more opportunity, with our Low Ropes Course and Climbing Wall.

This helps proper physical development and may even increase their overall athleticism.

4. Outdoor play can reduce the risk of becoming nearsighted.

Who knew that something as simple as playing outside can reduce chances of vision problems? It may sound crazy, but it’s true!

Scores of studies show links between outdoor time and the development of myopia (near-sightedness).

Experiments back up the theory: in one randomized study, 6-year-olds who got 40 minutes of outdoor time each day were less likely to develop myopia over the following three years than those who stayed indoors at this time. Scientists believe that this results from giving young eyes a break from “close work,” which includes reading and writing but also includes video games and computer/tablet usage. So when your mom told you not to sit too close to the TV because you’ll go blind, she wasn’t too far off from the truth! It’s also the reason our campers do not use electronics at Camp HotSpots.

Camp HotSpots is a great way for children to get the necessary outdoor play for their development. Technology is a hugely important part of our world now, but the evidence shows just how vital it is to unplug every now and then!

Enroll your child in Camp HotSpots today!

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