Recent studies have identified the benefit – even necessity – of spending time outdoors for people of any age. Specific to children, research has found that children who play outdoors are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than those who spend most of their time inside. But why? Here is what the Child Mind Institute has to say about the benefits of exploring nature:
- It builds confidence: Trying something new and being successful builds confidence. Unstructured time in nature offers unlimited options for novel experiences and in turn gives children more control over their play and learning.
- It promotes creativity and imagination: Unstructured play allows children to think more freely, design their own play schemes and in turn approach the world in creative and novel ways. What can they do with a twig or a rock? The sky is the limit!
- It provides different stimulation: Nature activates all the senses as your child can see, hear, smell, and touch the environment. For our children with sensory processing differences outdoor play is a safe place to explore different sensory experiences and provide that just right challenge.
- It gets kids moving: In today’s society we are in a constant battle to pull kids away from the screen. Outdoor play remedies that dilemma by providing a fun way to get their bodies moving and engaged with the world around them.
- It makes them think: Nature creates a unique sense of wonder for children, setting the stage for them to ask questions, try new experiences, and figure out how to engage with their surroundings.
So, get out of the house! Whether it be your backyard, a neighborhood park, or one of the many beautiful state parks in our area, provide safe opportunities for your child to explore. Go on a nature treasure hunt, identify birds or plants (there is an app for that!), dig with a stick, start a collection of rocks, take a hike, make art projects such as leaf etchings, or build something creative with things you have collected from nature. The opportunities are endless and the benefits are invaluable.