Willow Wood prides itself on our playground, but it may not be for the reasons you may think. While the new rubber surface is safe and the hill allows for awesome running and sledding, what we are most proud of is the benefits outdoor play brings to our students. Studies have shown screen time, over scheduled children and the increased fear of letting our children play outside alone has contributed to a more sedentary lifestyle for even the smallest of children. Here are four unexpected ways outdoor playtime can benefit your child:
BOOSTS ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: Outdoor free play cultivates curiosity and wonderment, as well as increasing kids’ ability to engage in a multitude of academic areas. The National Wildlife Federation reports 78% of teachers say they believe that children who spend regular time in unstructured outdoor play have more concentration and perform better in the classroom.
IMPROVES SLEEP: A 2016 Acta Paediatrica study concludes longer screen time is greatly associated with shorter nocturnal sleep duration among 2-5 year olds. That same study found that kids who had more outdoor playtime were less likely to wake at night. Exposure to sunlight helps regulate sleep patterns, and physical activity helps children fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep.
INCREASES HAPPINESS: The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that a hurried lifestyle can be a source of stress and anxiety, and may even contribute to depression for many children. Antidepressant prescriptions for children jumped 63% between 2012-2016. If we give our kids time and freedom outdoors, say the experts, we’ll see a dramatic shift in their stress levels, self-esteem, self-regulation and overall happiness.
DECREASES BULLYING: Principal Sean Hume (Toronto’s Chester Elementary School) has three playground rules: have fun, be inclusive and be safe “enough”. Hume has found children who once had behavioral issues have become leaders, showing others how to take creative, hands-on play to the next level. He feels it is in this outdoor free play environment, where children can touch bugs and smell trees, that they will develop environmental stewardship, and an affinity for people, places, nature and things. They begin to understand that they are part of a community.
If you’re looking to raise a happy child, a good student and a nice person, the research all points in one direction: outside. Willow Wood Preschool is dedicated to provide opportunities for our students to PLAY-LEARN-GROW, inside and outside!