Bilingual School

The Mental Health Benefits of Outdoor Play

Outdoors is where children can most be themselves. There’s something about open outdoor spaces, where there are fewer rules and restrictions, that is exciting for them – a form of escapism. The sense of freedom gained from playing outside and running without limits brings a happiness that is hard to rival.

When it comes to children’s mental health, regular opportunities for outdoor play are paramount.

Spending time out in the fresh air is a great way of clearing the head, offering time to relax, reflect, and give our brains a break. Children need this just as much as everyone else.

There is conclusive evidence that sport and physical activity are clearly linked to mental wellbeing.

A study by the American Medical Association concluded that “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier, when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors.”

At the same time teachers have observed ability to focus and learn, increased productivity, better behavior, and the fostering of more positive relationships between adults and children and amongst peer groups, when children are more active and spend more time outside during the day.

Exposure to the outdoors has a soothing effect on children, and can reduce hyperactivity, especially in those suffering from ADHD.

In the UK, research has confirmed that life satisfaction and happiness are higher for people who are physically active, and their levels of anxiety are lower.

Biology plays its part throughout. Being outside in natural sunlight allows our bodies to naturally produce Vitamin D, which releases the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

Time spent playing outdoors is also thought to help relieve stress and anxiety by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol in the brain. This helps to regulate emotion and mood and is linked with happiness and relief from depression.

Lack of sufficient time outdoors puts children at risk of Vitamin D deficiency, because the sun is the best source for Vitamin D production and it isn’t found in many foods. Being outside in natural sunlight allows our bodies to naturally produce Vitamin D, which releases the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

This helps to regulate emotion and mood and is linked with happiness and relief from depression. Time spent playing outdoors is also thought to help relieve stress and anxiety by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol in the brain.

When children are happy, more attuned and more open to learning, teachers have better class management and can spend more time teaching instead of disciplining. All the more reason for children to have long unstructured outdoor play.

 

 

 

 

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