Children who play outside are more social, new study says

Sep 23, 2016 | News

Young child stepping up to bat. (Courtesy Jennifer Silver).

Young child stepping up to bat. (Courtesy Jennifer Silver)

By Persis Abraham

Studies from Statistics Canada show that children develop much better social skills with their peers by playing outdoors.

For some families living in the city, it may be difficult for them to feel safe letting their children play outside with the large groups of people, cars and noise, but childhood experts have noticed that children do in fact behave differently when they are exposed to real-life surroundings.

“Physical activity among young children is associated with health benefits, including less obesity, motor skill development, psychosocial health and cardiometabolic health.,” the StatsCan report said.

“On the other hand, sedentary behaviour has been linked to increased obesity, and decreased psychosocial and cognitive development,” the report also said.

Kaitlin Beard, an Early Childhood Educator at Humber College is starting her own nature program next month so that kids have the opportunity to be free, and play in a large space.

“It is a program that involves children being outdoors so that they have repeated access to the same natural space. We are so fortunate to have the Humber Arboretum here so we also want to give the children opportunities to spend more time out there,” Beard said, referring to the parkland and conservation space at the college’s North campus.

“Nature brings more calmness. It is good for our mental health and well-being, and I have seen that in the children,” Beard continued.

Along with Beard, Olga Rossovska is an Early Childhood Educator at Humber who believes that kids who are involved in team- building games such as soccer, basketball or baseball are less-aggressive than kids who are glued to their television screens, or addicted to video games.

“I see a difference in the kids with the way they are on the playground compared to the way they are indoors. They are free because there are no cars and no walls,” she said.

“After being outside, they come back to the daycare feeling more calm and they’re excited to talk about what happened to them during nature play,” Rossovska said.

Families in Toronto could soon have more incentive to have fun outdoors. The city is planning to build a large, new park in the downtown core.

Mayor John Tory announced that the park is going to be 8.5 hectares of green space costing up to $1 billion.

It may be built over the rail corridor between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way, and will connect to the neighborhoods of King and Spadina, City Place and the waterfront.

“This will be a great addition because right now, a lot of families go to High Park. There will be a lot of opportunities for children and families to feel free downtown with that large space,” Rossovska said.

“As our city grows, we need to be creative about how we create public spaces,” Coun. Joe Cressy said at the time the park was announced. “We need to ensure we’re building neighbourhoods, building communities, not just building towers,” reported him saying.