Children need outdoor play
By Beate Frome
As children we roamed the fields, forest, and streams in our neighborhood. We enjoyed building with mud, dry grasses, and bark. We played hide and seek in corn fields. We came home happy, content, dirty, hungry, and ready for bed.
Children today very seldom get to enjoy the outdoors. Not just learn about the outdoors, really enjoy the feel of the moss between their toes, the feel of bark when you lean against it, the sound of a tree with the wind gently blowing, or the smell of a stream.
There is something therapeutic about being outdoors, being away from the stresses of the day. Letting go of disagreements, school, relationship worries, and so forth, simply being in the present. We do our children a disservice by withholding the rich experiences nature can offer.
Get Your Children to Play Outdoors
Deepak Chopra, a well known Doctor and co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. He is board certified in internal medicine, endocrinology, and metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and a clinical professor in the Family Medicine and Public Health Department at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of more than 85 books.
He recently published a newsletter through his Chopra Center for Wellbeing, with several ways to improve your mood. Written by Emily Holland, who is a certified health coach. What she suggested, and has obviously lots of experience with from her line of work, all rang true for my children as well. Some simple things seem to make a huge difference in how well my children feel and what mood they are in.
One of the ways that stood out to me was, Get Some Sun. Yes, that simple. Go outside. She says: “Exposure to the sun boosts serotonin production which explains why some sufferers of depression notice a worsening of symptoms during winter month. Less time spent out in the sun can lead to a drop in serotonin, resulting in depressed mood, anxiety, and low energy.”
Serotonin according to Wikipedia is also called “5-hydroxytryptamine is a monoamine neurotransmitter that has a popular image as a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. Biochemically, the indoleamine molecule derives from the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin is primarily found in the enteric nervous system located in the gastrointestinal tract. However, it is also produced in the central nervous system, specifically in the Raphe nuclei located in the brainstem. Additionally, serotonin is stored in blood platelets and is released during agitation and vasoconstriction, where it then acts as an agonist to other platelets.”
In other words, serotonin is a feel good neurotransmitter. It helps us feel happy and be in a good mood. More outdoor time, more serotonin production, more happiness and good mood.
Holland suggests you spend time outside, maybe a walk, some exercise in nature to get the most benefit out of being outdoors.
My children play outdoors for several hours a day. It helps them relax and be in a good mood, be more pleasant to be around, and more easy going. We have quality outdoor toys to lure them outside and keep them occupied for lots of imaginative play. A sand box digger can keep a child outdoors for hours simply shoveling sand, rocks, dirt, or snow. It gets used all year, every Season, just in different ways.
Another suggestion Holland brought up in the Chopra newsletter is, to Inhale a Pleasant Scent. Another super easy thing to do when you are outdoors enjoying nature. She says “Your sense of smell may have a more powerful effect than you think. In addition to the sensation of the odor itself, it may also conjure up memories and emotions you associate with them. The smell of fresh-cut grass , for example, might bring you back to summer days of a carefree childhood, evoking pleasant memories and boosting your mood. Moreover, according to research, certain scent can affect your mood whether you associate pleasant experiences with them or not.”
She adds, “Fragrances have the added benefit of not only boosting your mood but certain ones can also boost productivity or relieve stress and tension.”
Smelling the fragrances of the outdoors will assist in putting your child in a good mood. Outdoor play is a place for a child to relax, to live in the present, to explore, imagine, to make memories and to build a healthy foundation for the future, storing up serotonin and memories of the fragrances around his or her play.
The best thing you can do to help your children have a balanced happy life, get him or her some quality outdoor toys, like a quality sand digger, and send them outside to play.