Health

Scientists say kids who spend time playing outdoors are happier and smarter

There’s nothing quite like being outdoors in the fresh air – and it’s extremely important for our kids to be out and about in nature on a regular basis.

In fact, recent research has revealed that children who spend a lot of time playing outside are actually happier and smarter.

child-nature-running

Kids who spend time outdoors are happier and smarter

In this day and age, many kids are shrugging off time in the park in favour of watching TV or playing on their tablets and iPads.

However, a study by scientists at the Aarhus University in Denmark found that children who spend time in nature may become less likely to develop psychiatric disorders in adulthood.

What’s more, a survey by the U.K.’s National Trust found that the average child spends just over FOUR hours a WEEK in nature. The generation before spent on average around 8.2 hours a week playing outdoors.

“Children who are allowed this freedom of time outside get lost in nature,” Ginny Yurich, co-founder of 1000 Hours Outside which is an online community encouraging families to spend time outside, told Parents.com.

“They get lost in their imaginations and they get lost in wonder. And then they rapidly develop. There are many factors why but one reason is due to the rich sensory environment that nature always provides.”

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Ginny recommends parents encourage their children to spend four to six hours at least three to four times a week in Mother Nature.

Ditching the footwear can make your baby smarter

Meanwhile, another study has revealed that walking barefoot in nature is actually beneficial for a child’s development.

Babies put things in their mouth to taste them and like this, touching things – with their hands and feet – is a great way for them to learn about the world around them.

Chiropractor Dr. Kacie Flegal says that walking barefoot often helps improve the development of two sensory systems – the proprioceptive system (your body’s motion and positioning) and the vestibular system (balance and coordination).

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In order for these systems to develop as best as possible, it’s a good idea to let your kids walk with their shoes off, as Kacie says feet are equipped with many sensory cells.

baby-holding-hands

Keeping your baby barefoot helps improve the development of their sensory systems

“Proprioception is the ability to perceive the motion and position of our bodies in space and is generated by receptors located within our joints, connective tissue, and muscles. When activated by pressure and movement, proprioceptors send direct signalling to the brain telling it how the body is oriented,” Kacie tells Natural Child Magazine.

“The vestibular system is the creation of balance and coordination as changes in centre of gravity, posture, and head position shift.

“As babies gain awareness through the five primary senses, they begin generating deliberate movements and gradually learn to hold up their heads, roll over, sit up, crawl, and eventually start walking.”

boy-playing-sand

“Allow your child to play in grass and dirt”

Kacie adds that while we want to protect our children from cold or harsh environments and keep them safe, we should encourage play in grass, dirt or even wet leaves. 

“As babies begin to walk, they are accustomed to having limited movement and a barrier between the sensitive soles of their feet and the ground,” she says.

“As a result, you will permit them a great platform for the development of higher brain centres responsible for emotional control, problem-solving, language, social skills, and self-assurance.”

Kacie reveals another benefit to keeping babies barefoot is the encouragement of presence of mind and conscious awareness.

“As the little pads of babies’ feet feel, move, and balance on the surface that they are exploring, the information sent to the brain from tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular pathways quiet, or inhibit, other extraneous sensory input,” she adds.

“This creates focus and awareness of walking and moving through space; babies get more tuned in to their surroundings.”

In other words, ditch the fancy footwear and let your little ones roam free in wildlife (with your watchful supervision over them, of course).

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