With the increase in modern technology, our children are spending more and more time indoors. Did you know that kids today spend half as much time outdoors as their parents did?
As parents we instinctively know that being outdoors is good for our children, that’s why calling out “go outside and play” comes so naturally to us! When you drill down into the reasons why outdoor play is so important it’s easy to see why physical outside play is vital to our children’s development.
Here are some of the main reasons why outdoor activities are imperative for your child’s physical, mental and emotional growth.
Five Benefits of Outdoor Play
1. Children in nature are always learning
Throwing a ball at a fence, filling a toy bucket with sand or teetering at the top of a slide, it is all learning. Balance, coordination, cause and effect; these are all skills that can be learned in the great outdoors.
For older children, outdoor games and kids’ outdoor toys teach them that learning is an ongoing adventure, not just for stuffy classrooms.
2. Playing outdoors encourages independence
Provided that your child is safe, playing outside gives children a wider scope in which to explore and discover. Generally, this is a larger area than that of their bedroom or an indoor play area. This controlled freedom suggests that children will learn to be more comfortable being further away from their parents and encourage independence. Quite often a child might be following a bug as it scuttles along the fence, and before long the most dependent child is off on an adventure out of arms reach from their parents.
3. Being outside sparks a child’s creativity
Colouring in and drawing is for pencils, paper and indoors yes? A small child might think so until they play outdoors and realise you can use a stick and a patch of dirt to create your next masterpiece! This type of “out of the box” thinking is developed during outdoor play. A saucepan for an outdoor mud kitchen can soon become a space helmet for intergalactic travel when your child’s imagination gets a hold of it!
4. Nature Develops an enquiring Mind
“What’s that sound? Is that a bird?”
“Ewwww mum, a worm! Hey, what do worms eat?”
Even before children can form sentences they are asking “Why?” and “Wot dat?” Children learn from experiences and asking questions.
Practical and logical thinking is important for a child’s development. It teaches them to ask questions, to explore and discover. It also plants the seed that a world exists far beyond the walls of the child’s home, kindergarten or hometown. The inquisitive and enquiring minds of children today are the leaders, thinkers, and dreamers of tomorrow.
5. The great outdoors is vital for a child’s health and wellbeing
Health and well-being are terms that cover a broad range of subjects. When it comes to outdoor play, there are both physical health benefits and also mental and emotional benefits for the child’s well being.
Physically, playing in nature and playing outdoor games gets children moving. Their hearts are pumping, their lungs are filling up and breathing deeply, their muscles are lifting and stretching. Running, jumping, climbing, skating; playing outside will put children’s bodies to the test and develop muscle strength, flexibility, and gross motor skills. All these things are important for their general health.
Research conducted at the University of Sydney reported that active teens that spend time outdoors are happier. Although the study was conducted on 1200 teenagers, it’s never too early to develop healthy habits that will bode well for our children’s future. The study concluded that teens who spent more time outdoors functioned higher on a social level with healthy relationships between peers and school. Those teens that spent more time on indoor activities reported feelings of loneliness and shyness.
The Child Mind Institute reports that many studies confirm children who play outside are happier, more focused, less stressed and anxious.
What can you do today to encourage outdoor play?
If you plan it and schedule it, there is no reason why your children can’t play outdoors each day.
Raining? Gumboots, umbrella and puddle jumping.
Too hot? Shaded water play!
Of course there will be times when your child is unwell, but for the most part, building regular outdoor play into your daily lives is just like forming any other habit; you just have to make it a priority.
Children look to their parents for information and they model our behaviours. On a beautiful sunny day, why not take your book outside rather than sitting on the couch? Parents can lead by example by getting out in nature themselves and encouraging our children to join in the fun. There are so many memories just waiting to be made, and you don’t need a lot of money, time, or equipment.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Go for a walk in a nature reserve, park or bushland. Take a container or bucket to collect special treasures that can be used for art; try our Bunny Head printable? They are adorable!
- If you’re a keen gardener, invite your child to help with the weeding, watering, and planting. Search for worms and other critters.
- If you practice yoga, find a sunny spot on the lawn and teach your child a few poses; try our Animal Yoga Cards.
- Start composting. What a great way to discuss the environment and encourage responsibility in your child.
- If the weather is nice, why not take breakfast or dinner outside! You don’t need kids’ outdoor furniture; all you need is a rug or blanket.
The benefits of outdoor play don’t just apply to children but to both children and parents alike. The fresh air, the quality time spent together and the healing powers of nature will leave you both feeling calm, relaxed and reenergised.