Today's generation of children are often criticised for staying inside too much, or rather, for not going out enough. Indeed, soccer and climbing trees seem to have been replaced with consoles and video games, much to the despair of some parents. It is easy to see there are benefits of outdoor play and benefits of indoor play, but is playing outside better than playing inside? Or is indoor play better than outdoor play?
We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both to find out if one is truly better than the other.
What is indoor play?
Indoor play is not just sitting around staring at a screen. In fact, playing indoors may involve anything from video games to arts and crafts, as well as activities such as board games, puzzles and going to an indoor playground. Research shows one of the benefits of indoor play is that it encourages creativity and critical thinking. As you can imagine, crafts and story time ask children to be inventive, board games encourage problem-solving, and games such as Wii Fit and Just Dance promote physical activity.
In addition, other benefits of indoor play include a lower risk of injury and a convenient alternative for rainy days. Indoor playgrounds, for instance, greatly reduce the risk of danger and injury through soft matting or foam in case of any falls. Some companies even sell indoor gyms for your home at a range of sizes. In this way, you don't need to worry about your children getting injured, sunburnt or caught in the rain.
So, is indoor play better than outdoor play? Not necessarily.
Research suggests that children can't develop to their maximum potential just by playing inside. While the benefits of indoor play are vast, by missing out on outdoor play children also miss out on the opportunity to connect with nature and socialise. At times, indoor play can be lonely and lack adventure.
What is outdoor play?
Playing on playgrounds, making sandcastles by the beach, running around the park and going on family hikes are all examples of outdoor play. One of the main benefits of outdoor play is that it allows children to learn by experience, allowing them to make sense of the world around them and use their imaginations. Playing outside also gives children the opportunity to socialise, make lots of friends and consequently be much happier.
Research suggests that outdoor play increases children's attention span in the long run. Exercise and physical activity have consistently been proven to improve mental wellbeing and symptoms of ADHD. Additionally, sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D, which is important for heart and bone health. Lastly, by getting your children involved in physical activity you are setting them up for an active lifestyle, helping them maintain a healthy weight and habits.
Most experts agree on the wonderful benefits of outdoor, but the question remains: is playing outside better than playing inside?
The benefits of playing outside are not overshadowed by the disadvantages, but it is important to keep these in mind. Firstly, playing outside leaves kids more susceptible to illness or injury, it is not hard to catch a cold on a wintry day or to get a bruise from falling in the park. Secondly, outdoor playtime requires more preparation, including putting on sunscreen on the regular and making sure you've got the right equipment if you're playing a sport.
Which is better?
So, is playing outside better than playing inside? No! There are many benefits of outdoor play, just as there are many benefits of indoor play. A better question to ask is 'Why is indoor and outdoor play important?', as both are essential for children to thrive. By playing both outdoors and indoors, children get the benefits of outdoor play and the benefits of indoor play. That is, they get to enjoy enough physical activity as well as creativity and mental stimulation.
The American Heart Association suggests that kids should be active for at least 60 minutes every day, in this time you should aim to expose them to both indoor and outdoor activities. A little effort today can help control your child’s weight, reduce their blood pressure, increase their life expectancy and more.
To recap, we have explored the answers to the questions 'Is playing outside better than playing inside?' and 'Why is indoor and outdoor play important?' by carefully analysing the pros and cons of indoor and outdoor play. Because the benefits of indoor play and the benefits of outdoor play are significantly different, children who engage in both reap more benefits and are better off in the long run. By developing their physical as well as intellectual skills through a combination of indoor and outdoor play, you are setting up your child for success.