Three Ways Outdoor Adventure May Benefit a Child's Mental Health
At Avid4 Adventure, one of our core values is balance, meaning that we as outdoor educators live and encourage the balance of work and play in our lives. However, as screened entertainment continues to absorb the attention of children, outdoor play can disappear as a potential outlet for kids struggling to find mental and emotional harmony. The physical benefits of outdoor recreation are well-known today, such as reduction to risk of chronic illnesses and obesity. What are often not discussed are the benefits to a child’s mental and emotional health. Many researchers have studied the effects of exercise in natural, outdoor environments on mental health, and have found the following trends on outdoor adventure:
- It reconnects children to the natural world: Thompson Coon et al. (2011)1 discovered that those who engage in outdoor exercise feel a sense of “revitalization” or rebirth with their genuine selves. Often, children become reliant on screens to entertain themselves and can forget how to connect with their own creativity. Playing outside can help them rediscover the most pure form of entertainment: adventure.
- It enhances concentration: Kuo & Taylor (2004)2 found that outdoor recreation may reduce symptoms of attention-deficit disorders and improve overall concentration for children in both outdoor and indoor learning environments. Playing outside helps slow down their minds, return to the present moment, and cultivate mindfulness which teaches them to focus on one task at a time.
- It can decrease depression and anxiety: Mitchel et al. (2013)3 suggests that extended time in natural environments can have a restorative effect on children. Outdoor recreation may enhance overall mental health and reduce signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Bringing kids outside introduces them to a plethora of activities to empower them while providing a healthy outlet.
Though research on mental and emotional benefits to natural environments is relatively new, it is evident that children respond well to the natural environments. Therefore, it is crucial to introduce outdoor activities in early childhood so that kids know they have a place to reset and connect with their true selves. Let’s give young adventurers a chance to see their true potential to grow by playing outside!
To help your child reconnect to the natural world, consider the confidence building, authentic outdoor adventures at Avid4 Adventure for Pre K - 12th graders of all skill and ability levels. Avid4 Adventure offers summer day camps in Boulder, Lafayette, Superior, Denver, Lowry, Stapleton, Greenwood Village, Highlands Ranch, Golden, Castle Rock and Colorado Springs, Colorado; Burlingame, Mill Valley, Moraga, Oakland and Palo Alto in the Bay Area of California; Bend and Portland, Oregon; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Seattle, Washington. Overnight camp locations include Evergreen and Bailey, Colorado with a newly expanded offering of Expedition overnight camps in Colorado and California. To receive more information, click the link below.
1. Thompson Coon et al. (2011). Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review.
2. Kuo & Taylor. (2004). A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study.
3. Mitchel et al. (2013). Is physical activity in natural environments better for mental health than physical activity in other environments?