Playing Outside is Good For Children!
July 11, 2016|Posted in: Happy, Healthy, Smart Kids!
Playing outdoors is good for children! It surprises me that so many parents don’t know this. As a childcare provider for over 25 years, I’ve had many parents ask me to keep their children inside, either because it is “too cold” or “too hot”. But, whether they are building a snowman or playing in the kiddie pool there are many health benefits to children playing outside. Check out the list below.
Some of the Many Benefits of Outdoor Play:
- Boosts the Immune System
Outdoor play boosts the immune system by exposing children to the everyday dirt and germs found outside. There is evidence it even reduces their risk for things like asthma and allergies. For more information on this, the National Wildlife Foundation has a report entitled “The Dirt on Dirt” that you can find here: https://www.nwf.org/pdf/Be%20Out%20There/Dirt_Report_2012.pdf
- Supplies the Body with Vitamin D
Outdoor Play increases the body’s Vitamin D which supplies calcium necessary for healthy bones and teeth. There is mounting evidence that vitamin D also plays a role in preventing many diseases such as type 1 diabetes and cancer.
- Promotes Physical Fitness
Playing outdoors encourages children to be more physically active, which decreases their chances of having to deal with obesity. The health benefits of exercise are well known.
- Relieves Stress
Fresh air, sunshine and wide open spaces reduce stress levels. Free time and play make children feel calm and relaxed, while schedules and a regimented lifestyle can cause anxiety.
- Improves Distance Vision
*Studies have shown that outdoor play can improve a child’s distance vision. In a day and age where most people spend a great deal of time every day looking at a screen on the TV, computer, cell phone, etc. that is an important benefit.
- Increases Some Mental Abilities
*It has been shown that time spent outside can cause children to perform better on tests, have better critical thinking skills and reduce symptoms of ADHD.
*This is an excellent website that cites scientific studies that evidence many of these benefits! http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature/Why-Get-Kids-Outside/Health-Benefits.aspx
How Hot is Too Hot? How Cold is Too Cold?
Of course, common sense tells us that children should not play outside in extreme weather such as a blizzard or a lightning storm and children with compromised immune systems or special needs may require special accomodations. But for the average child, how cold is too cold? How hot is too hot? A good guideline is:
32 to 90 Degrees Fahrenheit is a Safe Temperature Range for Outdoor Play
Temperatures slightly below 32 degrees or slightly above 90 degrees can be safe for shorter periods of time. It is important to note that variables such as the “wind chill” factor and the “heat index” can cause the temperature to feel more extreme to our bodies, so always check with a reliable weather reporting service and heed any warnings issued.
This website provides a chart that illustrates “Weather Guidelines for Children” : https://www.ok.gov/health2/documents/weatherwatchforchildren2.pdf
You can also find information about safe temperature ranges on this site: http://hubpages.com/family/What-is-a-Safe-Temperature-Range-for-Kids-to-Play-Outside .
Finally, does cold weather cause colds and flu? Here’s what WebMD says about that:
“Cold weather also does not cause colds — at least not directly. Despite its name, the common cold is not caused by cold. “It doesn’t have any effect at all,” says Tallman (Thomas Tallman, DO, an emergency medicine physician and cold and flu expert at the Cleveland Clinic). “There’s no correlation.” In fact, you may be more likely to “catch your death of cold” indoors, where it’s warm and crowded than outdoors in the chilly air. People in close quarters are more readily exposed to carriers of the viruses that cause colds. “If one person in a household gets sick, it will spread easily,” Tallman says.”
You can read more on WebMD here: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/cold-and-flu-iq
So the bottom line is, whether it is summertime or wintertime, Kid’s (and grownups) Need to Play Outside!