Getting the most out of child’s play

Children who are active outdoors are more immune to colds and the flu, along with have an increased health, social and motor skills.

In the past, it was expected that we (as children) played outside for the majority of the day. Times have changed! Now, it seems to be the complete opposite. Children tend to spend the majority of their time indoors. With the help of TV, cell phones, texting, computers and video games, why would a child want to go outside? Even during the school year, recess has been eliminated in most schools. With the lack of exercise and social skills, children have also lost the art of thinking skills and building up their imagination. When children are not active as children, they tend to not be active as adults.

With the lack of exercise, childhood obesity is on the rise. Michigan State University Extension says that these children are at an increased risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis and several types of cancers. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that children over age 2 get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Physical activities such as running, jumping and climbing should be a part of their muscle and bone strengthening activities. All children should have exercise equipment available to them for winter, summer and rainy days.

Exercise and outdoor play will make children more physically fix, it will also help them with exploration, risk taking, conflict resolution, social interaction and the developing of fine and gross motor skills. Outdoor play can relieve and reduce stress and anxiety, increase coordination, and build muscles, strength and endurance. It can also promote leadership skills, increase self-confidence, help with language and social skills and increase their exploration of the environment.

Colds, flu and illness are caused by viruses and bacteria, not cold weather. When we stay in warm, stuffy rooms these germs have more of a chance to be passed around. When we play outside the germs are not as easily passed because they have more open air space to be dispersed into. Fresh air and exercise can improve a child’s overall health and help their resistance to infection and illness.

Children who engage in outdoor play are generally happier, healthier, rest better and have fewer disagreements with others. They can explore the environment while developing new skills. When children learn to enjoy the outdoors when they are young, they tend to carry that onto adulthood. Adults gain the same benefits from spending outdoor time as children. It is important to spend time with our children outdoors instead of just sending them out. Take walks with children and pets and explore new places. This should be a fun bonding time and it is free!