How many times have you watched your kids become frustrated with their homework? I can certainly relate to their frustration of finding it difficult to focus on homework at the end of a long school day. Parents have long thought of outdoor play as the reward for finishing homework, but we might want to start reversing that trend. A growing body of research suggests that outdoor play offers a positive bump in brain power.
One day my teenage son, Evan, completed two intense exams. When he walked in the door after school, he was intent on heading straight to his room to begin studying for the next day’s exam. I noticed how tightly wound Evan was, and I knew he needed a break … a play break.
When I asked Evan to take a break, he said he didn’t have time. I asked him to give me 20 minutes before returning to his studies.
I took Evan on a 20 minute play date. We walked through our neighborhood together. It was a beautiful, crisp and sunny autumn day. We shared stories about our days, and Evan opened up about his frustrations regarding his exams and the required study time involved. By the time the 20 minute play date was finished we both felt refreshed, and Evan thanked me for encouraging him to play with me. He was ready to focus without frustration with a clear mind.
Studies have proven that as little as a 20-minute walk in nature can boost your attention span. When you spend most of your day indoors focused on a computer screen or book, rather than spending time in nature, you deprive your brain of its beneficial breaks.
Outdoor play offers a multitude of gifts, and is beneficial for motor development, vision, cognition, vitamin D levels and mental health. Maybe it’s time to start something new: outdoor play before homework everyday.