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Positively Effects Overall Health And Executive Function

Recent research by child educators and specialists in child development have demonstrated the positive impact of outdoor play (frequently referred to by researchers as "playing in nature") and free play.
Researchers at Michigan State University who focused on children playing and learning in nature found profound effects on children's overall well-being. Outdoor play can be attributed to creativity, better cognitive skills, lower obesity rates and a whole host of other beneficial reasons - so much so that doctors are actually prescribing “time in nature” to their patients.
Additionally, recent studies indicate that not only nature, but letting children have free play has a big impact on their overall health and the development of executive function.
Executive function is a broad educational term used for many cognitive skills including organization, task initiation and the ability to switch between activities. According to a new study by psychologists at the University of Colorado, having free time to play has a direct and positive effect on executive functioning. Having positive executive functioning is an important predictor of school readiness, academic performance and positive life outcomes, including earning capacity and good health.
According to educational writer and teacher Jessica Lahey, “Unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children.”
Children who have more time in free play, spontaneous activities, self-selected reading and more time in the natural world are found to have more highly developed executive function. According to Peter Grey a Boston College psychology professor, who studies the benefits of free play in human development and has written the book “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life,” :
Free play is nature’s means of teaching children that they are not helpless. In play, away from adults, children do have control and can practice asserting it. In free play, children learn to make their own decisions, solve their own problems, create and abide by rules, and get along with others as equals rather than as obedient or rebellious subordinates.
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