Outdoor Free Play - A Super Drug for Heart-Mind Development

Today we are launching a new blog series on the beneifts of outdoor play. In this four-part series you will learn about the benefits of free play and what adults can do to keep kids safe and engaged.

I have discovered a new drug and its power to change children’s lives is amazing!  This drug:

  • Builds social skills.
  • Decreases anxiety and fearfulness – no more panic attacks or sleepless nights!
  • Helps children deal with bullying and negative social interactions.
  • Helps children learn to entertain themselves – imagine the free time you will have!
  • Increases their innovation – your child will be the next Bill Gates!
  • Decreases the likelihood of obesity.
  • Builds their immune system – fewer trips to the doctor!

And the best part – it’s free!!  How is this possible, you ask?  Well, this drug is actually play – outdoor, active, unstructured, good old-fashioned play.  And, yes, it does have all these magical properties!

Play, an activity now often seen as something children do in-between structured activities, is actually an integral part of how children learn and grow. 

While they are ‘just playing,’ children are developing social skills such as how to negotiate disputes, dispel problems, and be assertive. They are practicing democracy and learning how to join in with each other’s activities.  This helps children learn to cope with ‘bullying’ and other negative social interactions, decreases their anxiety and develops their heart and mind. 

Play also helps children build innovation and creativity, which, in the short term, helps them entertain themselves, and which, in the long term,  are essential life skills.  Creativity measures in childhood are three times more likely to predict lifetime achievement than is IQ (Skenazy & Marano, 2011). 

Vigorous outdoor free play, which involves lots of vigorous running and a bit of dirt eating, is also associated with a decreased likelihood of developing obesity, allergies, asthma and autoimmune disorders. 

If we found a drug that could actually deliver on all these results, it would be worth millions.  But luckily for parents, this ‘drug’ is actually free and widely available, I highly recommend using it!

Skenazy, L., & Marano, H. (2011). Why parents should stop overprotecting kids and let them play. American Journal of Play, 3(4), 423-442. 


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