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.
In “Magic Trees of the Mind” Marian Diamond, Ph.D. argues
that we provide impoverished environments for our children. “It doesn't take
the orphanage scene from Daviod Copperfield to qualify as an impoverished
environment. All it takes is a toddler sitting alone and passive for hours in
front of a television set, dreaming eyes of wonder glazed over, imagination
shelved, exploratory energy on hold. Then throw in a bowl of potato chips and a
By keeping children safe at home, we are not allowing them to
grow emotionally and intellectually. Richard Louv explored what he calls, the
Nature Deficit Disorder among children. He calls exploring nature, Natures
Ritalin. In his book “Last Child in the Woods,” Louv explains: “Nature – the
sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful – offers something that the street or
gated community or computer game cannot. Nature presents the young with
something so much greater than they are; it offers an environment where they
can easily contemplate infinity and eternity.” (96)
Robin Moore, a champion for outdoor play, who has written
about the natural settings being essential for a healthy child development
because it stimulates all senses, integrate informal play with formal language.
According to Moore, multi-sensory experiences in nature help to build “the
cognitive constructs necessary for sustained intellectual development,” and
stimulates imagination by supplying the child with the free space and materials
for what he calls children's “architecture and artifacts.” Natural spaces and
materials stimulate children's limitless imaginations and serve as the medium
of inventiveness and creativity observable in almost any group of children playing
in a natural setting, “ says Moore. (Louve, 85,86).
Giving children few, but quality toys can aid parents in
helping develop their child's multisensory experience in nature along with a
healthy dose of imagination. Simply learning to dig sand that is wet, sand that
is dry, sand that is mixed with leaves, and so on, can teach a child about
natural matter. The child will playfully learn physics as they dig and dump
sand. They can learn about the cut bank and the slip-off slope of a meandering
stream by adding water to the sand or dirt. By being allowed and encouraged to
learn in nature, the child develops a keen sense of themselves as part of
nature. Sandboxes can become excavation pits and the child is the operator or
CEO of the operation.
Outdoor play is so much more for children than simply being
outdoors, all their senses are involved and get used and honed out to sense
changes around them. A quality toy will assist your child in spending
therapeutic time outdoors.
Let Children Play Outdoors
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.