Spring is around the corner, which means that it’s time to send the kids to play outside… Not just for your benefit, but for theirs! While outdoor play is often a lifesaver for busy moms needing to get things done around the house, its benefits for children are manifold.
Unstructured outdoor play gives children a sense of freedom and a greater opportunity for discovery. As it allows them to run and play with more energy and enthusiasm, it also enables them to use their imagination and creativity in a unique way.
Children also gain valuable skills, from communication and collaboration to empathy and endurance, by playing outside. In fact, being outdoors is critical for the healthy development of young children.
A wide range of developmental tasks, including exploring, risk-taking, developing fine and gross motor skills and building basic knowledge, can be most effectively learned through outdoor play. But these are not the only reasons to tell your children to go play outside! Here are a few more:
- Outdoor play is imaginative and stimulates creativity.
- It provides a multi-sensory experience – children will see, hear, smell and touch things unavailable to them when they play indoors.
- Outdoor play encourages cooperative play, promotes problem solving and leadership skills, and improves listening and communication skills.
- It increases attention span and persistence.
- Playing in nature physiologically reduces anxiety.
- Being in nature also develops respect and empathy for other living things.
- Outdoor play increases children’s physical activity level and boosts their immune system.
- It’s fun!
The best part is that children don’t need much to entertain themselves outdoors, and even the smallest space can provide sufficient stimulation. So, as the days get longer and the temperatures rise, why not encourage your child to try the following:
- Run through a sprinkler
- Plant something in the garden… or simply dig in the dirt
- Go on a bug hunt – a magnifier is essential!
- Paint rocks with water-based paint (then clean it with the hose)
- Ride a bike
- Climb a tree or jungle gym
- Play ball
- Take the dog for a walk
- Make mud pies
- Lie on the grass and find shapes in the clouds
- Play with a hula hoop, skipping rope or marbles
When sending your child outside to play, allow him to challenge himself and test his skills. Remember, taking small risks forms an essential part of play, and often enables your child to master new tasks or conquer his fears. It is an important part of growing up and will encourage independence.