Suicide rates quadrupled from 1950 to 2005 for children less than fifteen years and for teens and young adults ages 15-25, they doubled. Gray believes that the loss of unstructured, free play for play's sake is at the core of this alarming observation and that as a society, we should reassess the role of free play and the factors that seem to have all but eliminated it from our children's lives.
Outdoor play also offers children opportunities to explore their community; enjoy sensory experiences with dirt, water, sand, and mud; find or create their own places for play; collect objects and develop hobbies; and increase their liking for physical activity. In fact, research shows that between the ages of three and 12 a child’s body experiences its greatest physical growth, as demonstrated by the child’s urge to run, climb, and jump in outdoor spaces (Noland et al, 1990; Kalish, 1995; Cooper et al, 1999; Janz et al, 2000). Such vigorous movements and play activities can not only enhance muscle growth, but also support the growth of the child’s heart and lungs as well as all other vital organs essential for normal physical development. For example, active play stimulates the child’s digestive system and helps improve appetite, ensuring continued strength and bodily growth (Clements, 1998; Pica, 2003). Vigorous outdoor play activities also increase the growth and development of the fundamental nervous centers in the brain for clearer thought and increased learning abilities (Hannaford, 1995; Clements, 1998; Gabbard, 1998; Jenson, 2000).
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