Posts Tagged ‘ outdoor play ’

Playing Outside May Make Kids More ‘Spiritual’

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Kids who spend a significant amount of time playing outdoors may have a deeper sense of purpose, fulfillment, and spirituality, according to new research at Michigan State University.  More from the study’s press release:

In the study, published recently in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, children who played outside five to 10 hours per week said they felt a spiritual connection with the earth, and felt their role is to protect it.

“These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being,” said Gretel Van Wieren, assistant professor of religious studies. “We were surprised by the results. Before we did the study, we asked, ‘Is it just a myth that children have this deep connection with nature?’ But we found it to be true in pretty profound ways.”

For example, the children in her study expressed feelings of peacefulness and some believed that a higher power had created the natural world around them. They also reported feeling awestruck and humbled by nature’s power, such as storms, while also feeling happy and a sense of belonging in the world.

The study also measured children’s aesthetic values, finding that those who engage in free play outside on a regular basis have a deep appreciation for beauty (i.e., balance, symmetry and color), order and wonder (i.e., curiosity, imagination and creativity). For example: lush green bushes, pattern-like blue spots in water and fascination with bees’ nests.

Van Wieren and co-researcher Stephen Kellert, from Yale University, used a mix of research methods, including in-depth interviews, drawings, diaries and observation, as well as conversations with parents. Seven of the 10 children in the study – who were 7 to 8 years old – were from families with a Christian background.

The researchers also found parents of the children who expressed the highest affinity toward nature and the strongest spirituality spent significant time outdoors during their childhoods. And many of the parents believed such experiences shaped their adult lives and spirituality.

Image: Girl playing in the woods, via Shutterstock

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Report: Half of Preschoolers Don’t Play Outside

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Nearly half of three- to five-year-old children do not have daily outdoor playtime with parents or caregivers, according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The study collected data on 9,000 families, and found that though mothers took children outside more often than fathers, half of the children did not get regular outdoor playtime at all.

CNN.com has more:

“There’s a big room for improvement in how parents prioritize their time and what they’re doing in the time they’re spending with their pre-school children,” said lead study author Dr. Pooja Tandon of Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children play outside as much as possible, for at least 60 minutes a day. Physical activity is not only good for weight control and preventing childhood obesity; previous research also suggests playing outside improves motor development, vision and vitamin D levels.

“There is evidence that play – just sort of the act of playing – is important for children’s development of their social skills and their peer interactions,” Tandon said.  “Being outdoors affords children an opportunity to play in ways that they may not get to when they’re indoors.”

Researchers suggested that families address outdoor time with child care centers or preschools their children attend, or work with community groups and friends to devise creative ways to incorporate more outdoor play into kids’ routines.

Image: Empty playground, via Shutterstock.

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