Mental Health Benefits of Playing Outdoors

Today’s children are faced with more than ever. The insistence of technology, the pressure to grow up faster and a general increase in societal neuroses all contribute to a decreased mental health standard in today’s children. Often, people look to prescribe the problem away, and while that is effective in some cases, it is not always the solution. Sometimes the solution is much simpler. Sometimes the solution is in your very own backyard. The mental health benefits associated with playing outdoors, especially in new and fun settings like a community or friend’s playground are vast and impressive.

An article in the American Journal of Play talks about how much children’s play time has decreased over the past few decades especially (perhaps this phenomenon correlates with the advent of new technologies) and how this lack of freedom and fun and silliness affects emotional development which will lead to neuroses in children, such as depression, anxiety and ADD. Perhaps you noticed the increased (in diagnoses) of these disorders, but did you think to link their increase in affliction to a modern lack of playing outdoors?

There has actually been a large amount of discourse on the topic. Obviously, people are interested in alleviating the burden of childhood neuroses and mental illness. In fact, Peter Gray, of the psychology department at Boston College has thought to link the phenomenon (childhood neuroses) with a lack of free play. Free play is very closely tied to outdoor play and basically includes any time in which kids are free to operate as they choose and interact with other humans their age. The bonding that occurs between children and the expression of self contribute to positive self beliefs, which are essential for kids to form in order for lifelong mental health and happiness. Conversely, traumatic or upsetting events can contribute to the negative beliefs we have about one’s self. For instance, bullying or teasing at a young age may resulted in a lowered confidence.

Confidence is one things kids have less of these days. We have more TV’s, ways of communication, consumer options and entertainment, but we have less self esteem than ever. So why is that? Well, some blame modern parenting methods. Parents in this day and age tend to be more involved than ever. And there is a lot of sense to that. The world is arguably less safe today and parents obviously worry about their children in the wake of that. Subsequently, they let children make less decisions than they were once able to. However, there is some collateral damage. Studies have shown that this loss of autonomy leads to a lack of confidence in later life. It may be hard to know what to do in the midst of this conundrum. You want to keep your children safe and making smart decisions, but not to the detriment of them growing as a person and in confidence. As with a lot of choices in parenting, it is best to err on the side of balance.

Another tip for inspiring happiness, creativity, fun and confidence in your children is to increase the amount of time they spend engaging in free play, or simply playing outside. Consider taking your kid to a playground- however, make sure the playground has the highest quality available in playground flooring and surfacing- Pro Techs Surfacing, of course.