Encouraging Children to Spend More Time Outdoors

Is it a good idea to encourage children to spend more time outdoors? The experts have weighed in and the answer is a very clear, “Yes!” Let’s take a look at why encouraging kids to spend more time outdoors is a very savvy move for parents and teachers.

Regardless of the age of the child, more outdoor time is probably in order. The digital era has brought with it no shortage of delights and benefits; however, the lure of digital gadgets ranging from computers and tablets to smartphones and videogame systems has come at a price. Children and teenagers are spending less time outdoors and that comes with some potentially serious health consequences.

The Importance of Vitamin D
One of the single greatest health consequences of spending too much time indoors is a lack of exposure to vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for building strong teeth and bones. Studies are also pointing to the fact that vitamin D plays a role in maintaining a strong immune system and intellectual development. In short, the “sunshine vitamin” (as vitamin D is often called) couldn’t be much more important. The human body can only produce one vitamin on its own, and that is vitamin D.  The benefits of vitamin D alone are enough to justify getting your child to spend more time in the great outdoors.

Indoor Air Quality Issues
Indoor air quality is usually far more polluted than indoor air. Recent studies have shown that there is a link between air pollution and health problems in children including a lowering of I.Q. Opening windows to let in more fresh air, buying air cleaning plants such as ferns and snake plants, changing air filters in your HVAC system more frequently and investing in a good air purifier and changing its filter are all ways to protect your air quality. 

Psychological and Academic Benefits
Further, time spent outdoors has been shown to help with behavior issues such as ADHD.[1] When environmental education programs in schools are implemented, studies have revealed that test scores increase.[2]  Outdoor play can be a great way for children to enhance their coordination. No doubt videogames and tablet use can increase hand-eye coordination; but there is more to navigating through life than mastering hand-eye coordination. Time spent outdoors playing games that require full body movement, or even simply walking or running builds coordination.

Improves Eyesight
Children’s developing eyes need plenty of light and one of the best sources of light is, of course, the great outdoors. Interior spaces often fail to provide enough light. Combined with the fact that children are spending less and less time outdoors and more and more time indoors staring at screens means that many may not be receiving the light their eyes need for proper development.

Children, like all of us, benefit from spending time outdoors. Outdoor time confers so many benefits on children that it should be made a priority. Yes, piano, language lessons and other enrichment activities may be important, but so is spending time with nature.

 

Sources:
[1] http://eab.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/32/6/775

[2] http://www.seer.org/pages/research/Bartosh2003.pdf