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10 ways playing outside makes kids smarter

La Crosse, WI, United States / Classic Rock 100.1

 

10 Ways Playing Outside Will Make Your Kid Smarter

1. Playing outside improves focus.

A 2008 study from the University of Michigan explored the cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. The study found that just walking outside, no matter the weather, and no matter whether the experience was actually enjoyable, helped improve memory and attention by 20 percent. So even when they don’t want to put down the tablet, and they complain about being miserable, just send them outside anyway.

2. Playing outside stimulates creativity.

During open-ended play, kids have to make up ways to entertain themselves instead of relying on adults to do it for them. Being outdoors where there are rocks and dirt and sticks presents limitless opportunities for play experiences. No two playtimes will end up looking exactly the same. Being outside presents a plethora of opportunities for imaginative play, creative building, and inventive activities.

3. Playing outside promotes problem solving.

During free outdoor play, children make up their own rules. They learn what works and what doesn’t. They learn when to keep trying and when to try something else. If playing with other children, they learn what types of interactions promote cooperation and which cause frustration. By solving their own childhood problems, they’ll be much more independent problem solvers as adults. Practice makes perfect in this area of life. If never given the chance to practice solving their own problems, how can we expect them to magically do it once they turn eighteen?

4. Playing outside develops leadership skills.

Playing together outside, children must negotiate rules of games and the roles they play in them. Natural leadership skills will be developed as they play. No special workshops or lessons required.

5. Playing outside improves language skills.

Children are so often told that they must be quiet indoors. “Use your quiet, indoor voice,” we often hear teachers tell their young pupils. But outside, children are free to be loud. Instead of others encouraging them to hush, they can experience a freedom to speak that the indoors doesn’t always provide. Many children (especially boys) are able to find their voices outdoors. And cooperative play, gives plenty of opportunities to communicate with one another. Children may issue instructions to each other on the building of a fort or the intricate rules of a spontaneous game.

6. Playing outside is multi-sensory.

During outdoor play, a child uses all of his senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and even taste (If I had a dollar for every time I told a child, “Don’t put that in your mouth!”). Not all children learn the same way. By opening up experiences to all of a child’s senses, we help each child learn in their own unique way.

7. Playing outside relieves stress.

It’s no secret that today’s kids are stressed out. As many as one in eight children and 20 percent of teens suffer from severe anxiety disorders. Modern children face pressure to perform from their parents, their teachers, and their schools. Children and their parents start thinking about colleges as early as kindergarten, and school systems place a huge emphasis on student test scores. It’s no wonder our children feel stressed out. But more than 100 research studies have shown that time spent outdoors reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. The cure for childhood depression and anxiety is literally waiting right outside our door. And a relaxed and unworried person makes a better learner.

8. Playing outside makes children healthier.

You might not think that healthier equals smarter, but sick kids miss school and can easily fall behind. Besides, learning is more difficult when you don’t feel well. Spending time outdoors strengthens immune systems, making children healthier and less prone to catching common illnesses, and therefore less likely to miss school.

9. Playing outside encourages physical activity.

Outside, children are free to run and jump and climb. There are opportunities to be physically active that just aren’t available in most indoor environments. There is a growing body of research that shows how physical activity positively affects brain health.

10. Playing outside is fun.

Learning is easier and longer lasting when it is fun. Being outdoors riding bikes with friends, organizing neighborhood “army” battles, and rushing to home base in impromptu games of tag are just plain fun. Those are the experiences that will stick with kids long after they’ve grown up and moved on to the “real world”.

 

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