Adventurous Play Outdoors Leads to Stronger Mental Health for Kids

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.

Excitement and exploration help kids avoid anxiety, according to researchers from the University of Exeter. Their study finds children who spend more time playing adventurously show fewer signs of anxiety and depression. Moreover, adventurous kids also tended to be happier during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

Researchers surveyed nearly 2,500 parents of children between five and 11 years old for this project. Some parents (427) were living in Northern Ireland, while the majority (1,919) hailed from the United Kingdom (England, Wales, and Scotland).

Each parent was asked how often their children engaged in play considered “thrilling and exciting.” Examples include climbing trees, riding bikes, or exploring a wooded area. Study authors point out that such activities are often unpredictable and may even lead to a scary or uncertain moment or two.

“We’re more concerned than ever about children’s mental health, and our findings highlight that we might be able to help protect children’s mental health by ensuring they have plentiful opportunities for adventurous play,” says study leader Helen Dodd, a professor of child psychology, in a university release.

“This is really positive because play is free, instinctive, and rewarding for children, available to everyone, and doesn’t require special skills. We now urgently need to invest in and protect natural spaces, well-designed parks, and adventure playgrounds, to support the mental health of our children.”

Kids are more plugged in nowadays than ever before, which means most children don’t have as many opportunities for adventurous play outside as previous generations. An important aspect of adventurous play in many cases is that it takes place away from adult supervision. Researchers wanted to test their theory that adventurous play helps kids build up their resilience, making them less vulnerable to mental health issues.

Sure enough, kids who spent more time playing outside dealt with less “internalizing problems,” hallmarked by anxiety and depression. Those same children were generally more positive during the first lockdown as well.

The study was published in the journal Child Psychiatry & Human Development.

Source: StudyFinds
https://www.studyfinds.org/adventurous-play-mental-health/

Help us reach the next generation of families

Donate
Back to Top

[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has over 35 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on Crosswalk.com and Religiontoday.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

  • About HomeWord

    HomeWord helps families succeed by creating Biblical resources that build strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids and healthy leaders. Founded by Jim Burns, HomeWord seeks to advance the work of God in the world by educating, equipping, and encouraging parents and churches. Learn More »

  • Support Our Mission

    HomeWord is non-profit, donor supported ministry. If you would like to partner with HomeWord in our effort to help more parents and families you can make a donation. Your investment will allow us to expand this ministry by offering more resources to families and churches in need.

  • Contact Information

    • HomeWord
      PO Box 1600
      San Juan Capistrano, CA
      92693

    • Send us an email

    • 800-397-9725
      (M-F: 8:30am-5pm PST)

Close