Outdoor Adventure is Vital to Childhood Development

Outdoor Adventure Childhood Development

According to a 2010 study conducted by One Poll in the UK, 44 percent of parents admit that they played outside more growing up han their children do now.

When many of us were children, we used to run and play outside for hours upon hours. It was only when the sun went down and the streetlights came on that we knew it was time to go inside – or suffer the wrath of mom. Unfortunately, many of today’s children do not share a similar experience.

“Research shows that children are spending half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago – and much more time doing ‘inside activities,” writes researcher Juster, F. Thomas.

With the ever-increasing popularity of television, videogames, and other electronics, children are spending more and more time indoors.

“The average American boy or girl spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen,” says the National Wildlife Foundation.

This lack of outdoor time can have a direct impact on the health of your child, both physical and emotional.

“Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development ,” says child advocacy expert Richard Louv.

Here are just a few ways in which a little outdoor adventure is vital to childhood development.

Develop Important Social Skills

“On a playground, not everyone gets to go down the slide first,” says Alyssa Ross with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids. “Going to a playground with your kids is not just about running around and being active, but it’s also about learning social skills, executive functions, and behavioral skills as well through play.”

In fact, researchers Edgar L. Berkley and Rheta A. Berkley of the University of Missouri-Kansas’ School of Education found that outside play fosters “social, emotional, and cognitive competencies” in kids, including strengthening the language and communication interactions between young children who play together.

“Children who are allowed to explore through play can learn new skills and overcome challenges, which can promote self-confidence, resiliency and self-advocacy, all of which can help children learn how to develop healthy relationships and to become leaders,” says Magher.

Increased Physical Fitness & Disease Prevention

“Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled the last 20 years,” according to the National Wildlife Foundation. It is perhaps more important now than ever before that children get out and get active. “One way to combat obesity is to allow children plenty of outdoor playtime,” says Maria Magher, LIVESTRONG. “Outdoor play gives children the opportunity to run, jump, climb, swim, dance and more, all of which provide aerobic exercise and strength training.” And time spent outdoors is not just important for physical fitness, but also current and future health.

“Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends that children get moderate to vigorous activity that adds up to at least an hour per day.

Reduce Stress

“Spending time outside playing is such a huge outlet for stress,” says Lindsay Legendre, from the Natural Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There movement. “It’s relaxing; it is healing.” And research agrees. In 2014, researchers from the University of Colorado found that children’s exposure to green outdoor spaces helped decrease children’s’ stress levels by offering them an escape from life’s daily routine.

“It may be hard to accept that children could experience stress or suffer from conditions like depression or anxiety,” says Magher, “but these issues are becoming more common for today’s children, who have busy schedules with school and extracurricular activities.”

Improved Attention Span

An estimated 6.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, research has shown that time spent outdoors can actually reduce ADHD symptoms.

“The difference I see is both of my children have a high attention span comparatively speaking, and much more self-directed (they want to investigate things), where other kids might just sit back,” says Debi Huang, a mom and writer behind the Go Explore Nature blog.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says outdoor play has been shown to help children focus better in a classroom setting and to enhance readiness for learning, easing the transition to school.

Learning How the World Works

Playing outdoors “provides children with first-hand knowledge and experience of cause and effect and of understanding spatial learning, such as up and down and back and forth,” says Dr. Kathleen Alfano. Simply put, outdoor adventure provides children life lessons that simply cannot be learned in front of a television or even, really, in school.

“Outdoor play also encourages learning and problem-solving skills, which can help children perform better in the classroom,” says Magher. “Unstructured outdoor play also promotes creativity, which children can apply to their academic learning, helping them see the material in another way.”

Improved Vision

Children who spend time playing outside are at a reduced risk of developing myopia, better known as nearsightedness, according to a study conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. A child’s chance of developing myopia dropped by two percent for each additional hour spent outdoors, per week.

Get Out & Get Active with Terrapin Adventures

“Children have a great need for physical exercise and activity and a chance to use their muscles to run, swing, jump, skate and ride a bike, and to be out in the fresh air and sunshine,” says Dr. Alfano. And a 2010 study conducted by One Poll in the UK found that children actually crave such outdoor adventure. In fact, 85 percent of children ages 6-12 reported wanting  more adventure in their lives – camping, biking, hiking, climbing! And 85 percent of parents agree!

Conveniently located in Howard County, Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington DC, Terrapin Adventures has a ropes course specifically designed for children ages 5-10 – our  Terrapin Explorer kids’ course. With 22 different fun elements, the Terrapin Explorer lets kids walk, balance, swing, zip, and crawl as they get the physical activity they need.

Check out our Adventure packages for which package is right for your young adventurer.

Book Your Adventure

Don’t worry! There’s plenty for parents to do as well! As the old saying goes, Lead by Example. It is important for parents to demonstrate the importance of physical activity to their children.

“Parents who exercise with their children are not only teaching them how to live a healthy lifestyle, they are also reinforcing the family bonds and creating wonderful family traditions,” says Pam Howard, certified health coach and mother of two.

If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at info@terrapinadventures.com to learn more.

Works Cited

  1. Gordon, Shannon. “Fit 5: Benefits of the ropes course.” The Oracle. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2017.
  2. Wickes, Stuart. “Kids need adventure. Parents need to teach them how.” Family Adventure Project. N.p., 08 Jan. 2016. Web. 23 June 2017.
  3. Stadsvold, Jenna. “Adventure Play: The Benefits of Risk Taking.” Head Rush Technologies. N.p., 04 Nov. 2016. Web. 23 June 2017.
  4. Hepp, Allyson . “5 Health Benefits of Kids Playing Outside.” Care.com, Care.com, 3 Aug. 2017, www.care.com/c/stories/4178/5-health-benefits-of-kids-playing-outside/. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
  5. Alfano, Kathleen . “The Benefits of Outdoor Play.” Fisher Price, 2 Aug. 2017, www.fisher-price.com/en_US/parenting-articles/outdoor-play/the-benefits-of-outdoor-play. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
  6. Magher, Maria. “The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children.” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 24 May 2015, www.livestrong.com/article/141891-the-benefits-outdoor-play-children/. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
  7. “Health Benefits.” National Wildlife Federation, www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature/Why-Get-Kids-Outside/Health-Benefits.aspx. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
  8. Juster, F. Thomas et al. (2004).  “Changing Times of American Youth: 1981-2003”, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. Child Development Supplement
  9. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Many Children have suboptimal Vitamin D Levels,” Pediatrics. October 26, 2009. http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/oct2609studies.htm
  10. Berkley, Edgar L, and Rheta A Berkley. “The Importance of Outdoor Play and Its Impact on Brain Development In Children.” University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Education, education.umkc.edu.
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