There are so many benefits of outdoor play. Not only for children, but for the whole family.
I generally find it hard to stay inside for very long. I feel as a family we all do better with a fuller and active schedule and lots of time outside. It’s not that we’re always out hiking in forests, traversing mountain ranges, cycling country lanes, fly fishing waist-deep in our waders (though we secretly long for these kinds of activities in our daily lives). Often our outside pursuits are simple.
The kids are equally as happy playing in our front yard, running up and down the street with our neighbour’s children. They adore illustrating the sidewalk with sharks and mice (Theo), octopus and centipede (Isla), or digging for worms in our postage stamp of a back yard and playing construction site in the sand box at our local park.
Being outside is immensely therapeutic. It’s not a miracle cure for all the challenging behaviours of small children. Meltdowns will continue. But Mother Nature does stimulate the senses and offer distractions. So sibling disagreements and whining spells are much less frequent.
“Quick Isla, look at those two squirrels chasing each other up that maple tree!”
“Indi, look at that big dog carrying a stick!”
‘Theo, I wonder what insects are living underneath that stone? Let’s take a look!”
Aside from it being huge amounts of fun there are so many benefits for kids. Here are a few:
Benefits of Outdoor play
- Strengthening the immune system:
As my kids grovel in mud and, in Indi’s case, dropping snacks and retrieving them garnished with sand and dirt, fellow mums and passers-by are quick to pass judgement that I’m lackadaisical in the cleanliness department. It’s no that. I believe germs are good. (We lived in India for 18 months – Isla was born there – and this has been excellent in building immunity for my kiddies.)
Children who are exposed to dirt, animals and germs - and all the other things that can send modern-day parents reaching for their antibacterial wipes - are generally healthier with stronger immune systems. Regular exposure can reduce the risk of kids developing autoimmune disorders and allergies.
- Provides physical exercise:
Children are physical creatures. They have energy to burn. Exercising while having fun is the best kind of exercise. Riding bikes, playing tag, climbing trees, using outdoor play equipment, kicking a ball, having snowball fights – all provide aerobic exercise and strength training.
- Stimulates the imagination:
Unstructured outside play helps children develop their imagination, promotes creativity and provides intellectual stimulation.
- It promotes social development:
Children who play outside learn problem solving skills. Whether they’re learning how to get along with friends ( sharing, negotiating, conflict resolution) or trying to figure out the best way to build a fort. These skills can help them to perform better in the classroom, work better in teams and become leaders.
- Exploring nature:
Kids are naturally curious. They want to learn about what’s around them, nature is full of sensory-stimulating discoveries.
- Outdoor play activities are family friendly:
If I’m outside, I can’t be distracted by house work, so I can focus on being truly present with my kids. You’ll want to be outside with your children to help keep them safe, which often means that your activity level increases as well. Bike rides, camp trips, days at the beach are a few of our favourite family activities.
- It provides daily dose of vitamin D:
Vitamin D helps promote better moods, energy levels, memory and protection from health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Just 10-15 minutes out in the sun will give your children the daily dose of Vitamin D they need.
I know that as the cooler winter approaches being outside looses some of its appeal. But wrap up warm, put on those rain boots, make a flask of hot chocolate and go for it!
For further reading I love this post from the Live strong foundation
Thanks for popping in