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October Newsletter

How We Develop and Learn

Development is a highly interactive process, and life outcomes are not determined solely by genes. The environment in which one develops before and soon after birth provides powerful experiences that chemically modify certain genes in ways that then define how much and when they are expressed. Genetic factors exert potent influences on human development, environmental factors have the ability to alter family inheritance. For example, children are born with the capacity to learn to control impulses, focus attention, and retain information in memory, but their experiences as early as the first year of life lay a foundation for how well these and other executive function skills develop. Severe neglect appears to be at least as great a threat to health and development as physical abuse—possibly even greater. Young children who have been exposed to adversity or violence do not invariably develop stress-related disorders or grow up to be violent adults. Simply removing a child from a dangerous environment will not automatically reverse the negative impacts of that experience. There is no doubt that children in harm’s way should be removed from dangerous situations immediately. Similarly, children experiencing severe neglect should be provided with responsive caregiving as soon as possible. That said, children who have been traumatized need to be in environments that restore their sense of safety, control, and predictability, and they typically require therapeutic, supportive care to facilitate their recovery.

3 Benefits of Outdoor Play

1. Lower BMI: Only 7% of kids met the criteria for obesity in 1980. Three decades later, more than one in three kids could fall under the obesity classification. There are two main reasons for such a sharp rise in childhood obesity — Americans eat more and move less than they did in the past. Children who play outside more often are more energetic than their sedentary counterparts, meaning they’re less likely to become obese. They’re not sitting in front of a television or computer for hours on end. Instead, they’re outside staying active and burning off calories.

According to one study, which examined body mass index (BMI) in preschool-age children, a direct correlation exists between a child’s BMI and the time they spend engaging in outdoor activity. Parents who allowed their children to play outside for longer generally had kids with a lower BMI than parents who limited their kids’ playtime.

2. Better General Health: There are many long-term health benefits to limiting your child’s risk of obesity. Obese children are more likely to develop health issues like asthma, sleep apnea, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Spending time in the sunlight can enhance your kid’s mood and bolster their immune system. Children who have ADHD can also benefit from outdoor play, as it provides a safe way for them to release pent-up energy that can create problems in indoor settings. Outdoor play can also help kids get proper amounts of vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” since bodies produce it during sun exposure. It’s present in certain foods, but kids normally need more than just what they can get from their diet. Letting your kid play outside on sunny days is one of the best ways to make sure their body is making enough.

Kids need sufficient levels of vitamin D to build strong, healthy bones and teeth. One of the most important components of bone is a mineral called calcium phosphate, which the body can only absorb when it has enough vitamin D. Scientists are still researching the effects of this vitamin, but its other potential benefits include:

-Boosted immune function.

-Increased ability to prevent disease.

-Improved mood.

-Reduced risk of childhood obesity.

3. Foster Independence: Studies have shown that outdoor play helps children build their sense of independence. Parents are usually near, but playing at the park gives children a feeling of freedom they rarely experience in other settings. Kids have the chance to explore and experiment without the feeling of constant parental supervision at the park. This freedom allows them to invent new games with friends, try new things and learn their boundaries and capabilities. The confidence they’ll develop through these discoveries will help them as they learn and grow.

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