A child requires a balance of everything, including outdoor time, for their overall development. A combination of indoor study time for a successful career and outdoor physical activity to stay healthy is important for a child’s development and growth.
Read below about the importance and benefits of outdoor play to ensure your child gets some outdoor playtime amidst the busy schedule of school, extra-curricular activities, homework, and screen time.
Importance Of Outdoor Play For Kids
Outdoor play encourages young children to exercise their bodies and minds. It engages all the senses and keeps them physically and mentally healthy.
Here are a few reasons why you should encourage outdoor play in children.
- Enables them to do moderate-intensity exercises
- Cuts down sedentary time and a plethora of health problems associated with it
- Improves cognitive performance
- Elevates their mood
- Helps develop fine and gross motor skills
- Encourages exploration and creativity
Ultimately, outdoor activities help young children grow up to be balanced, healthy, and resilient individuals.
Benefits Of Outdoor Play
The following are some of the potential benefits of outdoor play for children.
1. Encourages continuous learning
Outdoor games can be a brilliant way to enhance young children’s learning abilities. An outdoor environment provides a learning space where children can learn new things. From improving communication and social skills to developing their ability to solve different problems and acquire new information regularly, playing in groups can help children learn essential life lessons and skills that can’t be attained through classroom learning or books alone. Outdoor play also helps young children feel that learning is a continuous process rather than just something carried out in a classroom (1)).
2. Improves health
Physical development is as essential as mental development. Outdoor games are an excellent form of exercise for children. When young children indulge in outdoor games, their physical activity increases, and their energy and stamina get a boost throughout the day. Not only will you notice an improvement in their mood, but also a boost in their fitness and immunity levels. Outdoor play helps increase flexibility, strengthens muscles and joints, and improves agility. Plus, a few hours of sunlight can help your child get the recommended amount of much-needed vitamin D (2) (3).
3. Hones social skills
During the outdoor time, children get to socialize and are exposed to new environments, thus challenging them to become better. For instance, when children take turns on the swing, it can help them learn how to work together in a group or play safely. They also learn how to look out for each other and treat others with care and respect. Furthermore, when young children meet new children at a local park or in a play area, they get the chance to explore new experiences and make new friends.
Compared to those who are glued to the screen and spend time indoors, young children who often play outdoors interact effectively. They’re forced to get out of their shells, make new friends, or approach different children, thereby improving their social and communication skills (3).
4. Encourages a love of nature
Nature is integral to the survival of all living beings. When young children spend time outdoors, they are in close contact with nature. The longer they spend with Mother Nature, the more they develop an attachment, love, and fondness of it.
The present scenario is harsh. Nature is depleting at an alarming rate. Taking this into consideration, inculcating a love of nature in children from a young age is crucial. You could also take them out on nature trips and teach them about the effects of global warming and deforestation (3)).
5. Strengthens muscles
Besides improving cognitive performance, outdoor play is equally important for the development of the body. When young children spend time running around in the local park or climbing things, they’re challenging their bodies, which helps strengthen muscles. Also, outdoor activities help children assess the risks involved and teach them to push their limits, helping them learn new skills confidently (4).
6. Awakens curiosity and develops creativity
Even the minutest of things amazes young children, and they can instantly draw inspiration from the smallest of things. Whether it’s playing with sand in the play area with adult supervision or running around with friends on the school grounds, outdoor time promotes creativity. The open spaces and lack of constraints ensure greater freedom and stir up a child’s imagination. This is primarily because a child is far more inquisitive of their local environment and current surroundings. Not only do they notice things quicker, but also swiftly learn as their minds are receptive to loads of information (5).
7. Improves attention span
One of the top benefits of playing outdoors and spending time in nature is improved attention, especially for young children affected with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Playing outdoors is also known to improve performance at school. Unlike in a classroom, outdoor time is considered as recreation. Young children put a lot of effort into winning outdoor sports, which takes immense concentration. Thus, along with physical benefits, outdoor play comes with mental benefits (5) (6).
8. Develops motor skills
Outdoor play offers children an assortment of objects to play with, which helps them build and improve their fine and gross motor skills. Whether it’s climbing up a tree or building a sandcastle in the play area, every activity is different and develops their motor skills in one way or another.
9. Increases levels of happiness
Call it science or a fact, but it’s proven that the outdoors makes a person happy. The natural beauty, the warm sunshine, and the clean air stimulate the happy hormones within the brain, and this results in mood elevation.
Outdoor play is an excellent outlet for children to positively release any built-up frustrations or energy. It also ensures they’re in a happier mood throughout the day and helps them sleep soundly at night (3) (8).
10. Gives children new perspectives
Seeing things from different perspectives is extremely crucial. You can boost this in your child with outdoor play.
Young children who always remain indoors have no interest in what’s going on outside their four walls. It’s a whole new world out there, and once a child steps out of the comfort of their home, there’s no going back.
Suddenly, in this new world, they’re able to observe and develop opinions, face and handle problems, and arrive at ideal solutions to problems (9).
Although these are just a few of the major benefits of outdoor play for young children, once you let your child loose, you’ll learn many more.
Are There Any Disadvantages Of Children Playing Outdoors?
Doing everything in moderation is key, and this includes outdoor play as well. While the disadvantages aren’t significant, it’s best to have a balance of all activities.
Here are a few disadvantages of outdoor play for kids:
- Out of their love for outdoor play, at times, young children may overexert themselves. This can cause health problems, such as physical strain.
- An overindulgence of outdoor recreation can cause a child to neglect studies or other aspects of life. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to strike a perfect balance between all activities, including studies and outdoor play.
- On hot afternoons, leaving the skin unprotected without sunscreen can lead to skin problems in the long run. Similarly, in winter, every child needs appropriate clothes to keep themselves warm. Every season comes with its safety concerns that you need to consider.
- The outdoor play area needs regular maintenance. From discarding the trash to moving any tools, pieces of equipment, or sharp branches away, you need to keep the area safe for your child.
- When you go hiking or camping in the woods, it’s important to keep a bottle of bug spray handy. This can keep your child safe from infections and bug bites.
- Children may come in contact with strangers when outdoors. So, you need to talk to your child about strangers.
- Hydration is important. Ensure they have a constant supply of water to rehydrate during and after play.
Tips To Encourage Kids To Play Outside
1. Invite friends to play
You can visit them, invite them over, or meet them at the local park. From hop, skip, and jump to dodge ball, encourage your child to play games together. Take it one step further by planning a sports tournament for all the children.
2. Turn your yard into a playground
An easy way to get your kiddos outside is to transform your yard into a playground. With just a handful of elements and creative ideas, such as hanging a tire swing, pitching a tent, or filling a garden bed with sand, you can give your child an instant play area to explore.
3. Do indoor activities outside
Make regular mundane activities more fun by taking them outdoors. While you laze around on the back-porch swing, your child can play with their dough or beading kits. Alternatively, you can lay a blanket on the grass and read books together. This could allow you to get your outdoor time, soak in some vitamin D, and spend time together!
4. Plan nature experiences
From hiking to trekking and walking on the beach to strolling around your neighborhood, get some outdoor time, and discover all that the green space has to offer. Just ensure you plan slow-paced activities so that your child can keep up and enjoy the current surroundings.
5. Try a new outdoor sport
When young children are over soccer and haven’t touched a ball in years, you can introduce them to a new sport like baseball, basketball, or tennis. Ensure you pick kid-friendly sports.
6. Use fun equipment
Utilize items such as jump ropes, frisbees, balls, and hula hoops that encourage outdoor play.
While screen time is the more popular and easier choice, it’s important to set aside time for outdoor play. Children love playing outdoors and don’t discount outdoor recreation as frivolous fun. An inactive child can go on to lead a sedentary time later on in life. It’s time to let your child climb, roll, run, and swing their way to learning in the outdoor environment.
2. The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children; PeaceHealth Medical Group Pediatrics
3. 6 reasons children need to play outside; Harvard Health Publishing
4. 6 Research-Backed Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children; MindChamps
5. Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature; Child Mind Institute
6. Outdoor Education – Research Summary; University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
7. Outdoor play and why it’s important; The Education Hub
8. Top 5 benefits of children playing outside; Sanford Health
9. Benefits of outdoor play; Office of Sport; NSW Government
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