Remember the awe-striking moments in your childhood when you realized how stunning nature really is? Maybe it was the moment you saw your first shooting star, when you couldn’t stop running around the playground, or when you found your happy place frolicking in foamy beach waves. These are the moments that shape us as adults to deeply understand the value of nature for mental health and the importance of spending time outside at all ages.
While it is very beneficial for adults, time outdoors is especially valuable for growing children who are still in the early stages of learning and exploring the world around them. With the near-constant possibility of stimulation from screens these days, it is essential to remind kids of the incomparable beauty of nature and why it is so important for mental health. So, if you have kids that are glued to their devices, here are our mental health tips about the benefits of playing in nature.
Mood & Energy
A positive, uplifted, happy child is what just about every parent wants! When it comes down to the facts, the mental health benefits of playing outside are truly immense. Time outside enjoying nature has been shown to not only reduce stress and lessen anger and aggression, but it also can boost energy and attention. This might even look like a reduction in anxiety or ADHD symptoms. So, if your child is facing trouble in school, at home, or is simply not feeling their best emotionally, the best medicine might just be regular time in nature. So, encourage your child to step outside to feel the sunshine and observe the scenery. Teach them something new about their environment to get them excited to go outside again tomorrow!
Wonder & Excitement
As a child, the new world around them is exciting. Each new smell, sound, and the feeling of new objects like trees and grass is all a part of coming to understand their surroundings. Offering kids sensory stimulation, aside from the screens they might be used to using, is one of the many benefits of playing in nature. The freedom of their own minds can create an immense sense of wonder and excitement for kids. They can engage in exploration of not only the world around them but of their interests and curiosities. Tapping into these special feelings can be very uplifting and encourage lasting positivity. So, next time you’re outside, try getting your child’s mind working by asking them a leading question. Maybe something like, “Do you see any ladybugs out here?” And see where their curiosity takes them!
Imagination & Creativity
With all of the infinite possibilities of ways to play, kids are forced to adapt. They can’t let an existing story from a children’s book or game guide them. They get to make it up as they go! They can come up with their own ideas, games, and even invent a magical world for themselves to enjoy. They also get to interact with different aspects of their environment, like a tree or a playground slide. As they build confidence in themselves, they will likely find it easier to hold attention on what interests them. Engaging with their creative side can increase positive emotions while also reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms. So, try offering your child some nature activities for kids. Something like riding a bike through the park, or hunting for cute mushrooms. Help your child see the beauty and wonder in the world and they are sure to have imaginative ideas bubbling up in their brains!
Independence & Responsibility
As children learn to guide themselves through the world with their imagination, they start to learn how much they are capable of on their own. They learn the risks of certain types of activities such as retaining balance on jungle gyms. In the safe environment of a playground, backyard, or park, kids can test out different activities and learn from mistakes. This allows them to practice new movements and ideas to build skills and knowledge on their own. Without parents telling kids how to play, children learn to foster their own independence and take pride in their discoveries. Each of these newfound attributes can make kids feel more comfortable and confident! So, next time they get the chance to play, they will be more excited to head outside and learn about their own immense power.
Movement & Sleep
Getting outside and playing means movement! All that exercise is not just excellent for physical health but it has relaxing and stress relieving properties. Not to mention, one of the key benefits of playing in nature is that it can work wonders for sleep. Running or walking around outside tends to have a knack for tiring little ones out! The more kids play in nature, the more likely they are to feel ready to rest, hitting the pillow with ease at naps and bedtime. As the rush of beautiful chemicals the body makes with exercise uplift kids with positive emotions during the day, by nighttime they will be relaxed and calm, ready for a good night’s sleep to give them the energy to do it all over again tomorrow!
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we believe that mental health can be just as important for kids as physical health. Time in nature is an excellent way to support both for your child. For more information on the benefits of playing in nature and mental health tips for kids, don’t hesitate to reach out to your knowledgeable Coastal Kids pediatrician. To make an appointment visit us at www.coastalkids.com.