Country children have better motor skills than city kids, which means they develop faster and could even enjoy greater equality in society, according to a new Finnish study.
Academics at the University of Jyväskylä have found that, even though urban children play more organized sports, the freedom that country kids have to play freely outdoors with friends means they develop key skills faster.
The researchers argue this kind of unstructured play stimulates children’s development, helps prepare them for school life, and builds social confidence.
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Motor skills are vital for a child’s development, helping them learn to write, ride a bicycle and dress themselves. Outdoor play enables children to practise and develop these skills.
One in 10 children have delayed motor skill development, according to the study, which surveyed roughly 1,000 children between the ages of three and seven.
It also helps if parents are on hand when children are playing outdoors, as their presence encourages kids to feel safe and understand the importance of the activity.
The Finnish study is the latest to find that growing up in the countryside has advantages for children. Other research has previously shown rural kids can have better balance and agility, suffer fewer allergies and experience fewer symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The new study has also found that by getting out into the countryside to play, city children could catch up with their rural peers.
“Summertime is an excellent period to move as a family, as nature enables versatile experiences and stimuli for the child’s motor development,” according to lead author Donna Niemistö.