Let’s Get Outside!
At Gretchen’s House we deeply value the research that makes it clear that time spent outdoors has many benefits for children’s:
- Physical health: Spending time outside presents extensive benefits for children’s physical development throughout their preschool and elementary years. Outdoor play is directly related to a child’s physical strength, weight and immune function. Kids who are active throughout childhood are usually more likely to engage in regular exercise later in life.
- Mental health: According to a series of studies on our relationship to microorganisms, playing in the dirt can actually make you happier. Mycobacterium vaccae, M. vaccae for short, is a “friendly” bacterium naturally present in soil. Studies have shown that coming into contact with this bacterium can boost serotonin levels in our brains, improving our mood and making us more resilient to stress.
- Cognitive Development: During unstructured outdoor play, kids invent new games, explore their surroundings and become more independent. In addition to their newfound self-reliance, they also develop their decision-making skills and organizational abilities. Through individual and cooperative play, kids learn to problem-solve, create fictional worlds and turn ideas into realities. These experiences teach kids to follow the rules and respect others.
- Social Emotional Development: Kids who regularly play outside are generally more self-aware, with increased awareness of others’ feelings. Interestingly, studies show that kids who spend time playing outside are less likely to become bullies later on. Teamwork and imagination are necessary for outdoor play, which allows children to experience positive interactions with their peers. Kids who get consistent time to play outside are more likely to get along with others and find common ground.