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Natural Awakenings

Children Playing Outside Laugh More: Fresh Air is Good for the Soul

Feb 01, 2010 03:00AM

Child of Our Time, a televised research project co-produced by the BBC and The Open University in the UK, is halfway through its ambitious 20-year mission of tracking the development of 25 children since birth. One of Executive Producer Tessa Livingstone’s studies has found that the more children played, the more they laughed, especially when outside. In fact, children who played the most laughed up to 20 times more than others.

As a child psychologist, Livingstone maintains that it is important to get the balance right between unstructured play and the high level of structured activity, such as music, drama and language classes, which take up so much of the modern child’s time. Children who are allowed to play and explore outside are likely to be more adventurous, self-motivated and better able to understand risk when they grow up, according to Livingstone.

Her research team found the amount of time children are allowed to roam out of their parents’ sight has dropped by 90 percent over the past 20 years. “This is an extraordinary change and it says a lot about our fear of modern life, pedophilia, etc. Children learn two things from this: Strangers are fearsome and dangerous, and it’s dangerous to go outside,” she explains. She also notes other research indicating that children are probably safer from stranger danger when playing outside with other children than when playing online alone.

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