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. The stress can come from various sources, including fears, separation anxiety, changes, pressures at school and social expectations, among other factors. With more kids experiencing stress and anxiety than ever before, it’s even more crucial to provide them with quality play spaces and time to enjoy the outdoors at the playground. Being outdoors and playing at the playground frees kids to be themselves and helps them cope with their worries. Read on to find out more about helping a child deal with stress and anxiety, and the importance of outdoor playground time for all kids.
How to Help a Child With Stress and Anxiety
Childhood stress and anxiety can be troubling to deal with, but thankfully, you can do several things to help your child deal appropriately with their emotions. Try these strategies and steps 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 is eating healthfully and getting enough sleep, exercise, downtime and outside time.
- Allow time for worries: Telling someone to relax or to stop worrying doesn’t make the stress go away. Give your child space to vent about their stressors and feel the whole range of emotions.
- 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 gently expose your child to the things that scare them.
- 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 reframing the situation with a more positive thought.
- Build a coping kit together: Help your child make a list of coping techniques like reframing, talking to someone, deep breathing or meditation. 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, and let your child know that you’ll help them through challenging times.
Benefits of Playing Outside to Reduce Stress
Many studies extol the benefits of outside play for children, and there are many physical, emotional and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors. Ensuring your kids have plenty of regular outdoor playtime can provide numerous benefits that can help lessen stress and anxiety.
- Physical exercise: Playing outside is an activity that gets those little bodies moving while they have fun. This physical activity is essential for building muscle and strengthening bones, while also reducing the risk of obesity and many health problems. But, 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, and the body absorbs it through exposure to sunshine. This vital nutrient aids in the development of bone tissue and immune systems, but also plays a role in mental health.
- Critical thinking and imagination: Playing outside, especially unstructured playtime, is crucial for developing social and emotional skills like problem-solving, critical thinking and using the imagination. Developing these skills also provides coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety.
- Socialization: The park playground is the perfect place for kids to practice social skills and interactions with others. At the park, children learn to communicate, solve problems and collaborate with others. These are essential lifelong skills, but the social time can also stave off feelings of stress and anxiety, as time with friends makes us 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 and less worrisome.
Outdoor Stress-Relieving Activities With Kids
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 next time you head to the playground.
- Swings: The swings provide a feeling of utter freedom and relaxation. They let your child feel the breeze and release tension as any worries fly away. 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, bells and other musical equipment. They may also have other equipment designed for sensory play, including visual, sound, touch and vestibular elements. Engaging the senses helps with childhood development, and 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 have a calming effect on 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 to just be outside and let 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
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.