How Playing Outside Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Even among children, stress and anxiety are incredibly prevalent, and the number of children affected by stress has been on the rise. From separation anxiety to pressures at school, stress can come from a variety of sources.

With more kids experiencing anxiety, it’s crucial to provide safe outlets where they can relieve stress. Play is one of the best ways for kids to have fun and let go of worries. Having quality outdoor play spaces, like playgrounds, can assist kids with managing stress levels.

Read on to learn more about how to reduce children’s anxiety by playing outside or skip ahead to a specific section:

Having quality outdoor play spaces can assist with managing stress levels.

Potential Causes of Anxiety for Children

Kids might face many challenges in their youth that could cause them to feel stress and anxiety. Here are some common reasons:

  • Major life changes: The most significant cause of stress for children is a major life change, such as moving. Whether they move to a new house, a new state or a new school, this is a major change for a child to comprehend. They could feel unhappy or stressed about all of the sudden differences in their lives.
  • Parental conflicts: If a child’s parents are constantly fighting, this can affect their mental state. They could become anxious, suspicious or overly sensitive to any form of conflict.
  • Phobias: Many children have specific fears, or phobias, that cause anxiety. For instance, they might be particularly afraid of an animal or develop a fear of the dark. These fears can heighten anxiety as they go about their everyday routines.
  • Social fears: Some kids are afraid of new or unfamiliar social situations. They might be extremely shy around new people or not speak at all. Kids with social phobias aren’t likely to initiate conversations at school, on the playground or at the park. Their fear of being social might make them worry about any social situation.
  • Separation anxiety: For some children, separation from parents or caregivers is their biggest fear. They might excessively worry about family members when they aren’t present or refuse to go to school and face separation. This form of anxiety could develop after a traumatic event.

These are just a few of the potential causes of anxiety in children. Other sources of anxiety may include falling ill, the death of a friend or family member or being bullied at school.

How to Help a Child With Stress and Anxiety

Childhood stress and anxiety can be troubling to manage. Thankfully, you can help your child navigate these emotions. Showing your child support and reassuring them about their fears will make them feel better.

Here are some strategies and steps to try to help your child cope with stress and anxiety:

  • Focus on health care basics: Stress and anxiety can worsen when essential health needs go unmet. Ensure your child eats healthfully and gets enough sleep, exercise, downtime and outside time.
  • Allow time for worries: Telling someone to relax or stop worrying doesn’t make the stress disappear. Give your child space to vent about their stressors and feel the whole range of emotions. Make sure your child knows they can come to you about anything and you’ll always listen.
  • Don’t avoid triggers: Complete avoidance of whatever your child is afraid of or worried about may only serve to reinforce the fear and make it worse. Instead, try desensitization techniques and use small steps to expose your child to the things that scare them gently.
  • Teach positive reframing: Work with your anxious child to understand their fear and use positive reframing techniques. This method is a coping mechanism that seeks to break down fears into things that are realistic or worth worrying about, then reworking the situation with a more positive thought.
  • Build a coping kit: Help your child make a list of coping techniques like reframing, talking to someone or deep breathing. Add physical objects that can help with worries, like a stress ball, fidget spinner or cuddly stuffed animal. Keep the list and comforting items in a consistent location, so your child can use them whenever they feel worries creeping in.
  • Empathize with your child: Your child needs to know their worries are normal and they are not alone. Regularly show your support, and tell them you understand their fears. Be a positive role model, letting your child know that you’ll help them through challenging times.

Benefits of playing outside to reduce stress

Benefits of Playing Outside to Reduce Stress

Research praises the benefits of outside play for children. There are many physical, emotional and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors. Ensuring your kids have plenty of regular outdoor playtime could help lessen stress and anxiety.

Here are more advantages of playing outside:

  • Physical exercise: Playing outside is an activity that gets kids moving while having fun. This physical activity is essential for building muscle and strengthening bones. It also reduces the risk of obesity and many health problems. It’s also excellent for brain development, improving cognition and reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for many bodily processes. The body absorbs it through exposure to sunshine. This vital nutrient aids in developing bone tissue and immune systems and plays a role in mental health. The more kids play outside, the more exposure they get to this crucial vitamin.
  • Critical thinking and imagination: Playing outside, especially during unstructured playtime, is crucial for developing social and emotional skills. They can learn traits like problem-solving, critical thinking and imagination. Kids can also use these skills as coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety.
  • Socialization: A park playground is a perfect place for kids to practice social skills. Children learn to communicate, solve problems and collaborate with others at the park. Social time can also stave off feelings of stress and anxiety, as time with friends makes you feel happier and reduces worries.
  • Reduces stress: The fresh air, sunshine, exercise and time with others all contribute to an overall reduction in stress. Being in a natural setting like a park has a calming effect and can help refocus thoughts to be more positive.

Outdoor Stress-Relieving Activities With Kids

Engaging the senses helps with childhood development.
Being outdoors is an excellent stress reliever, but a few specific playground activities can help even more with stress and anxiety. Try these stress relief activities for kids the next time you head to the playground:

  • Swing sets: The swings provide a feeling of utter freedom and relaxation. Children can feel the breeze and warm sunshine as they sway back and forth with their friends. The swaying motion is a natural relaxant, offering a sense of calm while children work on their balance and sensory integration.
  • Musical elements and sensory equipment: Today’s playgrounds often feature fun extras, including integrated musical instruments such as xylophones or bells. They may also have other equipment designed for sensory play, including visual, sound, touch and vestibular elements. Engaging the senses helps with childhood development. They can also provide a calming effect and an outlet for creative therapy.
  • Sand and water play: Just as with other sensory play equipment, sandboxes and water tables provide a creative outlet for texture play and can reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Activity boards: Some playgrounds have chalkboards or mounted games, and both can be great stress-relieving activities for kids. Activity boards like these engage the mind and encourage creative play and collaboration.

No matter what playground equipment is available, the important thing is just being outside and letting kids play. All the fresh air and physical movement will get those feel-good endorphins pumping and help alleviate any worries or stressors.

Browse Playground Equipment From Miracle® Recreation

Browse commercial playground equipment
At Miracle Recreation, we know that stress relief for kids is incredibly valuable. Fun, creative playgrounds provide an outlet for anxiety. We offer a wide range of playground equipment designed for inclusive, stress-relieving playtime for kids of all ages. For decades, Miracle Recreation has been delighting children with unique and innovative playgrounds. We know what kids like and what they need at the playground, and we’re always coming up with new ways to inspire creative playtime. Browse our extensive selection online, or contact us to start building a quote for your playground.