When you spot a group of kids running and climbing on the playground, your first thought is likely that they are building a healthier body. Yet, outdoor play also has tremendous benefits for a child’s cognitive development. They can learn a lot as they engage with their friends and tackle new challenges on the outdoor playground equipment. In fact, knowing how much outdoor play benefits the brain, will have you eager to make sure that the kids in your community always have an opportunity to stretch their minds and bodies cohesively.
Change the Biological Nature of the Brain
The brain is constantly changing during childhood and everything that a child is exposed to has an impact on brain development. Children who engage in physical activity regularly have better blood circulation that improves brain functioning. The playground is the perfect place to get exercise without even noticing it. Play areas that encourage children to think outside of the box or solve challenges, such as climbing a rock wall, also help to strengthen the connections between neurons in the brain that are associated with learning.
Increase Cognitive Functioning Through Regular Exposure to Sunshine
Sunlight has many benefits for the mind and body, and there is nothing more exciting to a kid than getting to go outside to play on a beautiful sunny day. Regular exposure to sunshine puts kids in a happier mood and helps them to get better sleep. Children also need sunlight for their body to make vitamin D, which is helpful for improving cognitive functioning. All of these benefits combined help to develop a healthier brain.
Strengthen Attention and Focus With Regular Intervals of Play
Teachers often claim that playground structures for schools are just as important as the books in the classrooms. This is because young children need to burn off energy to be able to sit still and focus for learning. While all children should have time set aside for recess, it also helps to take the kids outside to play for a few minutes before they are presented with a test or a difficult new concept. Playing outdoors helps to release endorphins that counteract the negative effects of stress hormones on the brain so that learning takes place faster.
Provide Opportunities to Develop Executive Thinking Skills
Kids learn skills on the playground easily that are harder to pick up in the classroom. Participating in activities such as putting together a team to play sports or developing a game of pretend play on a themed playground, both stimulate the brain to learn skills that are vital for higher-level thinking. Problem-solving, planning, and communication are all skills that kids gain on the playground that transfer to future successes.
The next time you get the chance to watch kids engage on a playground, take a minute to appreciate all of the benefits the they are gaining for their brain. From building critical neural connections to reinforcing new concepts through stress relief, a little bit of fresh air and sunshine makes a huge difference in a child’s cognitive gains.