In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, we are seeing less of kids playing in nature.  With that, we are also seeing an increase in mental health concerns among our youth.  Clearly, there is a correlation that we, as parents and teachers, need to pay attention to and address for well-being of the kids.   From physical health to emotional resilience, cognitive growth to environmental awareness, the wonders of nature are truly transformative.

Benefits of kids playing in nature. How being outside helps kids mental and physical development.

In this blog post, we will explore 20 remarkable benefits of kids playing in nature, highlighting the importance of reconnecting our children with the natural world.

Benefits of Kids Playing in Nature

Physical Health:

Nature provides the perfect setting for children to engage in physical activities. They can do activities such as running, hiking, swimming, and climbing, which promote overall fitness and well-being.

As a teacher, over the past decade, I’ve seen a decline in the kids’ small and large motor skills.  This comes from less time playing outside and more time spent on screens.

Encouraging the kids to get outside, whether it’s for outdoor learning activities or backyard games, will support a more active lifestyle.

Mental Health:

Being in nature reduces stress, anxiety, and improves mood, leading to better mental health and increased happiness.

Vitamin D:

Exposure to sunlight helps children absorb essential Vitamin D.  A vitamin D consumption is crucial for kids to build strong bones, a healthy immune system, and their overall physical health.

Furthermore, as shown on Our Blue Ridge House, when exposed to direct sunlight, the body produces vitamin D that benefits your:

  • Brain and nervous systems
  • Mental Health
  • Cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Body’s ability to manage blood sugar
  • Immune health
  • Bone health

Sensory Stimulation:

Nature stimulates children’s senses, fostering sensory integration and cognitive development.

This is done as they explore different textures, sights, sounds, and smells.  For example, they are touching the rocks, grass, and trees, while listening to the birds and smelling the flowers.

Imagination and Creativity:

Nature’s beauty and wide open spaces ignite the children’s imagination.

When in nature, watch as the young children become inspired and more likely to engage in creative play and imaginative thinking.

Environmental Awareness:

Experiencing nature firsthand fosters a deep connection and appreciation for the environment.

Showing kids to nurture a sense of responsibility and taking care of our environment is easy when spending time in nature.

Benefits of kids playing in nature. How being outside helps kids mental and physical development.

Problem-solving Skills:

Nature presents children with endless opportunities to problem-solve and think critically.

From simple walks outdoors to hikes in the forest, they learn to navigate natural obstacles and challenges.

Curiosity and Wonder:

Being in nature sparks children’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder.

Encourage them to explore, question, and seek knowledge about the natural world around them.

Emotional Resilience:

Spending time in nature helps children develop emotional resilience, as they learn to adapt to unpredictable situations and face the challenges that nature presents.

Enhanced Concentration:

Studies show that exposure to nature improves attention span and enhances children’s ability to concentrate and focus.

Erin Kenny, author of Forest Kindergarten: The Cedarsong Way, summarized this best when she said “Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.”

Motor Skill Development:

Exploring nature’s playground requires physical coordination and fine motor skills, fostering the development of balance, coordination, and dexterity.

Bonding and Social Skills:

Nature provides a nurturing environment for children to connect with family, friends, and peers.  Such experience with foster their social skills, build empathy, and encourage cooperation.

Sense of Freedom:

Nature offers children a sense of freedom and autonomy.

While a classroom has it’s place and purpose for learning, it brings a sense of confinement for the kids.

Whereas in nature, the kids have unlimited, wide-open, space for unstructured play, self-expression, and personal growth.

Benefits of kids playing in nature. How being outside helps kids mental and physical development.

Reduced ADHD Symptoms:

Spending time in natural environments has been shown to reduce symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and improve focus.

The article, 20 Amazing Health Benefits of Being in Nature, talks about the calming effect of being outdoors – “Activities in nature can promote mindfulness and help individuals focus on the present moment and lengthening their attention span.”

Environmental Education:

Nature is the ultimate classroom for children to learn about ecosystems, wildlife, and sustainability, fostering a love for the environment.

Mindfulness and Well-being:

Playing in nature encourages mindfulness, grounding children in the present moment and promoting overall well-being.

We encourage you to try 5 minute meditations and outdoor yoga with the kids as often as possible.

Diversity and Inclusion:

Nature embraces diversity, teaching children to appreciate and respect the beauty of all living beings and ecosystems.

10 Reasons why kids need more recess

Improved Sleep:

Exposure to natural light and fresh air helps regulate sleep patterns, leading to better sleep quality and overall restorative rest.

When kids don’t get the sleep they need, their mental and physical health is at risk.

Lifelong Love for Nature:

Childhood experiences in nature create lasting memories and a love for the natural world that can inspire environmental advocacy throughout life.

Conclusion

The benefits of children playing in nature are profound for their mental and physical health.  Together, we can encourage more outside time and less screen time.