05 Aug Now hear this, put down your electronic devices and go outside!
It’s National Play Outside Day. In 2011, Aaron Wiggans and Rhonda D. Abeyta founded National Play Outside Day as a reminder to explore and play in the world outside. The day encourages healthful habits that will last a lifetime. And it’s needed now more than ever as we all seek to be more active during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The data shows that children and youth were less active, played outside less, were more sedentary, engaged in more recreational screen-based activities, and slept more during the initial COVID virus outbreak compared to before restrictions were put in place.
Play helps develop and improve social skills. Social skills are learned as part of the give and take of play. During childhood play, kids learn about verbal communication, body language, boundaries, cooperation, and teamwork. Play also helps to address obesity and depression in young people.
- Kids in poor communities have an obesity rate that is nearly 2x higher than kids from affluent communities.
- Deeper negative impacts in communities of color: black and latinx youth have the highest rates of stress, anxiety, and depression.
As adults, we continue to refine our skills through play and playful communication. And while play is essential for a child’s development, it is also beneficial for people of all ages in the following ways:
Relieves stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Improves brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.
Stimulates the mind and boosts creativity. Young children often learn best when they are playing—a principle that applies to adults, as well. You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun, and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and solve problems.
Improves relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to include a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.
What’s your favorite way to play outside? Try some of these:
- Explore hiking trails near you.
- Visit the local swimming pool or even take swimming lessons.
- Check out every park in your neighborhood.
- Start a game of catch, kickball, tag, Frisbee, or make up a game.
- Go to the beach.
- Run through the sprinkler.
- Fly a kite.
- Walk around the block.
Go for a bike ride.