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The Importance of Playing Outside

The Importance of Playing Outside



Modern life has kids plugged into their iPad playing their video games.  While in moderation that can be great, playing outside has a significant impact on your child’s overall health and well being.


Dr. Claire McCarthy, MD, primary care pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School suggests the following six ways in which you can help your children play outside:


Benefits of Playing Outside



Sun, sand and wind

Believe it or not, sunshine actually has a very important role to play in your child’s development.  Our bodies need exposure to Vitamin D which aids in bone development and making our immune system strong.  It also helps children sleep better and has a calming effect on our mood.  Take your children out to the beach and have some fun with the waves.  Afternoon picnics along with their friends at the local park are a great way to bring in some social fun.


Exercise, exercise, exercise

Growing should get plenty of exercise.  Physical movement helps children gain gross motor skills and builds confidence.  Get your child enrolled in soccer lessons, baseball, cricket, swimming and yoga.  Sometimes just regular play dates with their friends outside at the park is a great way to get them going.


Benefits of playing outside



Executive functions

Being able to plan, prioritize, troubleshoot, negotiate and multitask are critical skills for life.  Imagination and creativity also aid in problem solving.  To hone in these skills, children must learn and practice them.  Unstructured time is required to think alone or with other children.  During this time, children will make up their own games, learn to do things on their own and learn how to entertain themselves.  Being able to practice these skills at the park or with friends outside improves the chances of helping the executive function skills develop.


Benefits of Playing Outside


Risk taking

It is natural for us to be anxious with our children, especially when they are small.  Will they fall? Will they hurt themselves? Will they talk to strangers?  All these are valid thoughts.  But keeping them cooped up inside is not the answer.  Children should be allowed to take risks.  They will develop the confidence necessary to tackle the world around them.  Simple things like letting them climb trees, getting them make friends on their own (even if they get turned down) are risk taking activities.  Even if your child is rejected, don’t let them feel down.  Encourage them to try again – help them have a mindset of trying again even if they fail.




Right from a young age, children must be able to make friends, work together, share and cooperate.  Unstructured settings give children the freedom to find their own ways to go through the social process.


Appreciation of nature

Many of us live in cities.  Our world is fast changing.  The tree that was once casting its beautiful shadow is rarely to be seen.  Getting children out into nature is a wonderful way for them to connect to our Earth.  Feeling the green grass in their fingers and looking for mushrooms in the woods is a unbelievable experience that will not only help them appreciate nature, but also help them understand the world around them.




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