Gone are the days when we would play outside until we heard our mothers calling us in for supper. The last 20 years have seen more and more children spending more and more time inside rather than outside.
As a result, in that same time frame, childhood obesity rates have more than doubled, the United States has become the largest consumer of ADHD medications in the world, and pediatric prescriptions for antidepressants have risen extremely quickly. (1)
The Benefits of Outdoor Play
• Increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies
• Increases vitamin D levels, protecting against future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues
• Improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness
• May reduce ADHD symptoms
• Increases standardized testing scores in math, reading, writing and listening
• Increases critical thinking skills on tests
• Decreases children’s stress levels within minutes of seeing green spaces
• Protects children’s emotional development
• Enhances social interactions
Outdoor Play and ADHD Symptoms
“AD/HD affects up to 7% of children. Those afflicted have chronic difficulty paying attention and focusing on tasks and can be impulsive, outburst-prone, and sometimes aggressive.” (2) Current treatments are drugs and behavioral therapy.
Recent research findings suggest that adding trees and greenery where children spend a lot of time and “encouraging kids with AD/HD to play in greenspaces may help supplement established treatments to improve children’s functioning.” (2)
A University of Illinois Landscape and Human Health Lab’s study showed that playing or taking teaching outside in green areas can reduce ADHD symptoms.
Parents of children with ADHD who participated in the study indicated that activities that typically occur in green outdoor settings were the best for their child’s symptoms, and indoor or non-green outdoor activities were the worst for symptoms.
These parents also rated their child’s symptoms as better, on average, after activities in green settings than after activities in non-green settings.