Although most everyone can benefit from regular doses of fresh air and natural wonder, kids in particular stand to gain a lot from routine outdoor play. And yet, it seems to be increasingly difficult in our digital age for parents, babysitters, and educators to pry away the “device du jour” and send kids out for some good old fashioned physical fun.
If this struggle sounds familiar, a change of scenery might help. Toting your tots or tweens to a local park is a FREE way to tap the many mental, physical, and social benefits of outdoor play.
Sure, swingsets and ballfields are great, but even natural settings with minimal amenities can be wonderful “imagination playgrounds” for total freewheeling, creative, unstructured, “anything goes” play—the stuff childhood memories are made of!
Now is the perfect time to start building this healthy habit: July is national Parks and Recreation Month. There’s a whole slew of special events and activities taking place in parks all around the country. Check out what’s happening at a park near you at the National Recreation and Park Association’s website: http://www.nrpa.org/events/july/park-and-recreation-month-events/
A wealth of published research details just how spending time outside improves everything from physical fitness to math skills. This nice infographic features some such interesting findings.
Below, we’ve expanded on a few of our favorite science-backed snippets to help inspire even the indoorsiest youngins among us to get outside and enjoy our parks this month.
Dirt is good for you.
Eww!” you’re thinking. “Dirt equals germs!” Well, that’s right–but germs aren’t always wrong.
This article in the Huffington Post gives an interesting rundown of the breadth of research that shows the immune system-boosting effects of “dirt under [kids’] fingernails (or possibly animal dung), mud around their noses and mouths, and weeds and wild grasses lodged in their clothes.”
You’ll see better.
I don’t just mean you’ll gain clarity or fresh perspective as a result of reconnecting with nature (although that’s a benefit, too)! I mean that your literal vision—as in, visual vision—can improve as a result of spending time outdoors. So says this study published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Sunlight gives you superpowers.
Sunlight is a free and abundant source of Vitamin D, ever-important for growing healthy bones and teeth—and for staving off diabetes and heart disease. Our bodies manufacture Vitamin D automatically when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. A few minutes of sun exposure is all it takes—after that, better slather on the sunscreen or those rays will turn from friend to foe faster than you can say “farmer tan.”
What other benefits to get from being outdoors?