Are children benefitted by playing outdoors?

While the answer should be obvious, ask yourself this: How are children growing up now? If playing outdoors is important, why are parents raising their children indoors?

A new study says children who spend more time playing outdoors have a stronger sense of self-fulfillment and purpose than those who don’t, according to Michigan State University research.

(There is a book by Richard Louv, Last Child In The Woods, that reviews much of the research up to the time of publication. Basically, it says that children do better when they spend a good deal of time outdoors, yet our electronic age promotes less and less of that nature-immersion.)

Now comes this study showing that children spending times in nature are more spiritual. When they play outside more, they tend to feel they have a connection with the natural world and an obligation to protect and nurture the earth. They felt the emotion of awe, that mix of reverence and wonder and even fear when we see something profound and grand and much bigger than ourselves.

“These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being,” said Gretel Van Wieren, assistant professor of religious
studies and lead author. “We were surprised by the results. Before we did the study, we asked, ‘Is it just a myth that children have this deep connection with nature?’ But we found it to be true in pretty profound ways.”

The press release for this study is here.

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I encouraged my own children to be outside as much as possible. Our four children spent relatively little time playing video games, and we live in a fairly rural area where it is easy to get outside and play, ride bikes, walk and visit a nearby park. I wish all could grow up that way.

See also: to read the article connected with the image above.