Have Your Kids Discover the Fun, Benefits of Playing in Nature

There are so many good things children get from playing outside, from the obvious (hands-on learning about nature) to the not-quite-so-intuitive (reduced risk of nearsightedness). 

And few places have better opportunities for kids to play outdoors than Greater Prescott with a mild climate that still has four seasons to witness and absorb the natural cycles the world is built upon.

The Highlands Center for Natural History, Heritage Park Zoo, Mortimer Farms and Community Nature Center have structured nature-based learning activities for kids, and trails and open space abound in parks and the Prescott National Forest. Here’s a few more of the benefits kids get from outdoor play:

Getting exercise — The CDC recommends children ages 3 to 5 stay active throughout the day and those ages 6-17 get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Research shows they (and adults) are more likely to exercise for longer periods when they are outside.  If you give a kid a ball or bike, and a little room to roam, that hour goes by in a hurry!

Exposing to sun — We all need vitamin D, especially kids whose bones are growing and immune systems developing. Solar rays are our chief source of D at all ages, while they play other roles in building immunity, improving mood and encouraging better sleep by keeping us in tune with our circadian rhythms.

Connecting with nature — No matter how advanced technology gets it’ll never replace learning about the natural world by being part of it. Regular outdoor play lets kids observe the seasons, examine leaves, bark and rocks, watch streams flow and see how animals, large and small, interact with the environment. 

Taking risks    The uncontrolled nature of nature means it’s inherently riskier, something which can unnerve parents and children. But it also gives kids a taste of what it means to evaluate and navigate the world, making decisions that will have consequences. In most cases a parent or caregiver is nearby but at just enough distance for the child to experience a sense of independence.

Photo: Fain Park by Blushing Cactus Photography