The Conservation Benefits of Outdoor Play for Kids

 

by Lauren Bucciero | Marketing Intern

Teaching children about the importance of nature can have lasting impacts on the world around us. By getting kids excited about the natural world, we are inspiring future leaders to make conservation of our environment a priority. Encouraging kids to get outside and explore their own backyards has many benefits to the lives of children, the adults around them, and the planet. 

I spent most of my childhood playing outside. From running around my grandfather’s farm, to playing for hours in the woods in my backyard, my parents always had me involved in various outdoor activities and programs. I even attended camp at the Seacoast Science Center! Being exposed to nature from an early age and learning compassion for our environment and its wildlife has led me to the career path I find myself on now: an aspiring wildlife educator and writer. 

Below are some of the benefits of encouraging your children to explore nature through the lens of a backyard scientist:

Outdoor play is great for health 

Playing outside exposes kids to fresh air, the freedom to explore, and a fun way to exercise. There are also many beneficial microbes in dirt that help build up the immune system! According to what is known as the hygiene hypothesis, exposing infants and young kids to dirt actually reduces their risk of developing asthma, allergies, and immune disorders later in life. Not only does playing outside improve physical health, but emotional health as well. Spending time in nature increases vitamin D intake from sunshine, which has an overall effect on mood and happiness levels. 

Improves learning and creative expression 

There are unique learning opportunities outside that are simply not available within the confines of the indoors. From backyard scavenger hunts to making leaf drawings, learning and creativity is limitless when you incorporate the natural world. It even allows younger kids to learn new concepts and words they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. 

Limits screen time and improves social development 

The world has completely changed with the rapid advancements of technology. Children are continuing to spend more of their free time indoors in front of a screen, hardly ever interacting with their peers in person. By putting away the iPad and bringing the kids outside, they not only get the many health benefits listed above, but also learn how to interact face to face with other kids their age. These social skills will be carried throughout their lifetime and assist them greatly when they reach adulthood. 

Gives an appreciation of nature 

Bringing kids outside in their backyards, to the beach, or on hikes lets kids appreciate the natural world. This opens conversations for parents and teachers to discuss the importance of environmental conservation. These conversations are important and may even ignite the spark for children to have a lifelong passion for conservation. 

Increases self confidence 

The outdoors lets kids take safe and calculated risks, such as climbing trees or rocks, which in turn helps improve children’s self confidence. As a backyard scientist, exploring and learning more independently helps kids feel more confident in their abilities. That confidence naturally spills over into other areas in their lives and can help them become more well-rounded, self-sufficient kids! 

Need some ideas for outdoor activities? Check out Seacoast Science Center’s Your Learning Connection resource. Or, if you are planning a visit to the Center with your family, you can learn about the natural and social history of the park with our new do-it-yourself Odiorne Point State Park Adventures.

 

Sources: 

https://www.natureplayqld.org.au/15-benefits-of-going-out-and-engaging-with-nature-for-kids

https://ggie.berkeley.edu/supporting-learning-and-well-being-during-the-coronavirus-crisis/

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/16/537075018/dirt-is-good-why-kids-need-exposure-to-germs

https://www.fawns.co.uk/blog-posts/seven-benefits-outdoor-play-children/

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/kids-and-dirt-germs#1

https://news.sanfordhealth.org/childrens/play-outside/

https://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-outdoor-play.html

https://www.livescience.com/54078-hygiene-hypothesis.html

 

 

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