Encouraging your kids to play outdoors is one of the best ways you can help them to stay healthy and fit. When you allow them to run, jump and engage in free play or sports, you enable them to build their muscles, strengthen their bones, and maintain a healthy weight.
In addition, whenever your children are outdoors, you ensure they get a good dose of vitamin D from the sun and breathe in fresh natural air, too.
But whenever your kids play outdoors, they don’t only gain benefits that positively affect their physical health; they also get to improve their brain power and mental health.
Below are the different ways outdoor play helps children exercise their mental muscles:
1. It increases the size of their Basal Ganglia and Hippocampus
A study published in a brain research journal has shown that kids who are physically fit from engaging in sports and other activities are more likely to have bigger brain volumes in the basal ganglia and hippocampus – the areas of the brain that are linked to learning, memory, and cognitive control.
Your kids will be physically fit and have a larger basal ganglion and hippocampus if you let them play outdoors for at least an hour daily. These beneficial effects will spill over to their capacity for learning. They will have better memory as well which will also help them greatly in studying and their overall academic performance.
2. It helps strengthen their Vestibular System
Other studies also show that children who regularly engage in activities that involve balance and jumping activities improve their vestibular system. The vestibular system is the system in the body responsible for creating spatial awareness and facilitating mental alertness. These two give your children a great framework for reading and other academic skills.
If you let your kids play on the swing, slide, or hang upside down from monkey bars, you help build their vestibular system. Letting them play with a jump rope will give them the same benefits as well.
3. It increases the flow of blood to their brain
When kids move and are being physically active, more oxygen, glucose, and other brain food are delivered to their brain.
Because of the increase in blood flow and nutrients, they experience heightened alertness and mental focus. These will help your children learn and understand concepts better and faster.
With this in mind, you will do well to encourage your kids to take frequent breaks and play outdoors in-between studying for several hours. With this “outdoor play break”, their blood flow will be stimulated and, once they are ready to study again, their brains will be able to process and absorb more concepts easily.
4. It helps improve their creativity and problem-solving skills
Kids who play outdoors have various opportunities to let their imagination and creativity run wild.
They will engage in lots of pretend play with their playmates. They will also come up with various ideas on how they can have more fun with a ball, on the play equipment, and anything they have at their disposal.
In addition, when your children are engaged in freeform play, they have little or no structure or rules to follow. Because of this, they will need to solve complex social and emotional problems on their own. They will have to make critical decisions for what they feel the rules and parameters should be for the games or activities they come up with.
5. It protects their brain from stress
Lastly, kids will also experience stress from time to time. They can experience this if they are having a hard time understanding certain lessons. In case they are reviewing for a hard quiz or their exams and they also have to complete several projects, they will be under a lot of pressure to do all these properly and within the given time-frame.
You can help your kids avoid the unhealthy effects of stress on their brain by getting them to take their breaks outdoors and letting them play for several minutes or so. When they get a workout from playing, their brains will be placed into a state of homeostasis.
This means that their body’s organ and chemical systems will be balanced which will help them relax a bit and forget their stress. When they go back to studying or doing their projects, they will be more focused and energized to continue their work.
With the different benefits your children’s body and brains can gain from playing outdoors, make sure they always find time to do this every day.
No matter how busy they are with their school work and other activities, encourage them to go outside, breathe in fresh, invigorating air, and engage in active play.
Michael Davies is the Senior Account Manager at Sandleford, a trusted supplier of letterboxes and home security products and solutions in Australia. The company’s Swing Slide Climb range has grown and grown over the past 4 years, and together with Bunnings Australia, it has become one of the most exciting and innovative suppliers and developers of children’s play equipment in the Australian market.