7 Reasons to Encourage Outdoor Play
Newer generations are growing used to spending hours in front of electronics and engaging in fewer active indoor activities, creating more sedentary lifestyles. This decline in active outdoor play can critically impact children’s well-being.
Parents aim to equip their children with tools that represent an advantage in a competitive world. We hope to raise well-rounded individuals who are independent, balanced, healthy, and capable of living a successful life.
What if we tell you that regular outdoor playtime can help your children improve their physical health and develop their cognitive, social, emotional, and even intellectual needs? That's right! Here are seven reasons to encourage outdoor playtime in children.
Develops Motor Skills
While engaging in outdoor play, children move their bodies and challenge their muscles and bones, developing coordination, agility, balance, and dexterity.
Consider regular outdoor play as a practice for mastering more complex skills! While playing, children learn and become more aware of their bodies and abilities, improving their fine and gross motor skills.
Improves Physical Health
Being outdoors exposes children to sunlight! Sunlight helps human bodies create Vitamin D, an essential vitamin known to boost the immune system and assist with bone growth and development in children.
Sunlight also helps regulate mood and energy. Have you experienced how gloomy weather can make you want to crawl in bed and watch a movie while sunny days help you feel more awake, happy, and active? Well, this scientific study documents a positive correlation between daylight and cognitive performance!
Being outdoors is a synonym for being active! Children enjoy running around, jumping, riding their bikes, or playing ball. This physical movement is a great way to maintain a healthy weight, stretch muscles, and burn energy for better sleep. Exercise also helps provide oxygen to the body's organs for proper functioning.
Improves Socialization and Communication Skills
Outdoor play often occurs in public places, such as parks, playgrounds, and even in your neighborhood. Children interact with peers prompting them to be social, express themselves, work as a team, share, cooperate, and respect others. It provides ample opportunity to experience friendship and develop a sense of identity.
Group activities such as football practice or gymnastics provide these opportunities in a structured environment, but simple, unregulated outdoor play makes children captains of their domain prompting exploration and self-discovery.
Promotes Executive Function
Executive function is a set of cognitive and mental processes and skills that help individuals plan, analyze, measure, and execute tasks or goals. These processes include abilities such as prioritizing, problem-solving, focus, negotiation, and multitasking.
Since outdoor play is a form of unstructured or independent play, children are challenged to use their creativity, cultivate their decision-making abilities, create and follow rules, and experience a level of independence, confidence, and self-awareness.
Stimulates and Sharpens the Senses
Outdoor play offers a wholesome sensory experience! Sensory stimulation activates one or more of our five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), promoting emotional, cognitive, and physical development. It is beneficial for children, especially the littlest ones, as it helps create connections in the brain to take in, process, and respond to sensory information.
Playing outside allows children to engage most, if not all, of their senses, sharpening their abilities and helping them recognize and adapt to different environments. It offers opportunities for learning about basic concepts such as too much sunlight may burn your skin, snowflakes taste like water, or soil becomes sticky when wet. Or more complex things such as kicking a ball helps with focus, walking barefoot in the grass helps release stress, or listening to water allows their mind to calm down.
Promotes Exploration and Discovery Assisting with Learning
The outdoors has much to offer in terms of learning. Children are naturally curious, which plays an advantage! A simple walk to the park can trigger children’s curiosity and interest in a particular topic; for example, the sight of a caterpillar leads to learning about their life cycle, metamorphosis, butterflies, how their feed, etc.
Other things like leaves, rocks, flowers, and sticks can trigger creativity to use the items for arts and crafts.
Appreciation of Nature and Environment
Children who enjoy and play outdoors create positive and strong memories of nature. Little ones get to actively interact with trees, flowers, rocks, streams, and animals, unconsciously building a sense of awareness about the environment. Their connection with those experiences allows them to appreciate and respect nature, motivating them, as they grow, to care for and preserve the spaces they value and enjoy.
It is clear that outdoor play offers tons of benefits; however, getting children motivated to go outside to enjoy the outdoors is a whole different story! To encourage outdoor playtime we suggest:
Adding outdoor play to the daily routine. Outdoor time doesn’t need to involve driving to open spaces or parks! A simple walk around the neighborhood or enjoying a few minutes in the backyard are fabulous options!
Make it appealing. Children want to do what seems fun! Consider the child’s interests and make fun suggestions. From planning a scavenger hunt or adventure walk to just playing with a ball or playing catch, the outdoors offer many fun opportunities.
Try different parks and places. Plan an outing once a week and drive to the park, zoo, or open spaces where children can explore, hike or interact with plants or animals. A change of scenery may trigger their curiosity and pique their interest in the outdoors.
Organize outdoor playdates or activities. Friends and family make the outdoors fun! Enlist a few of their friends and hit the local playground or organize a soccer game.
Make outdoor toys available. Bikes, rollerskates, balls, sandboxes, flying discs, jump ropes, or jungle gyms are excellent options to give children an extra push to the outdoors.
Now that you know the benefits of outdoor play and how to inspire your children to get outside and enjoy, go ahead and try it! And even better, join them!
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