Heartland LIVING Magazine June-July Issue 2021

Page 66

By Rebecca Maglischo

A generation or two ago, summer meant children playing outdoors for long periods of time. Building forts, climbing trees, and jumping off rocks were the highlight of a hot day. A skinned knee was one of the emblems of summer. Many neighborhoods, playgrounds and wilderness spaces are largely quiet today. Children spend more time in structured activities, such as after-school and summer programs, competitive sports, or dance lessons, leaving less opportunity for children to engage in long periods of outdoor playtime or embark on a nature discovery adventure. Outdoor play fosters children’s intellectual, emotional, social and physical development. By being outside and surrounded by nature, children experience an ever-changing and free-flowing environment that stimulates all the senses and provides countless opportunities for discovery, creativity, and problem-solving for little scientists. Children are free to explore, move about, and make noise — all delightful forms of self-expression that are often restricted indoors. Many energetic children slow down to dig a hole in sand, watch a ladybug crawl, or spend focused time playing with a stick in a mud puddle and several studies have found that exposure to nature can even reduce symptoms of ADHD and anxiety. 66