There are many benefits of outdoor play on child development especially in the early years.
Outdoor activity is said to, directly and indirectly, impact a child’s Social Skills, Physical Health & Development, and Intellectual & Emotional DevelopmentAccess to technology and digital resources is a huge advantage for modern day families in the digital age and there is research to suggest that being surrounded by digital media is a privilege and hugely important to learning. At the same time, old-fashioned outdoor play time is still essential to children’s health, and parents, child carers, and nannies should be encouraging them to spend time playing outside and enjoying the great outdoors.
Outdoor play on Social Skill Development
Social Skills are invaluable, and we learn these in childhood through the interactions we have with our social circle of family and friends and the wider community. Building relationships with people helps children to grow in confidence, and collaborating with people by sharing toys can positively boost a child’s communication skills as they grow to understand language and how this can help them achieve their wants and needs. Social situations can also help children learn about managing their emotions, safety awareness, and practice skills that will be useful to them as adults.
Outdoor Play on Physical Health and Development
Playing outdoor as a child is something that lots of us remember with fond memories. Popping round to knock on your neighbour’s door to see if “…Julie can come out to play” or kicking a football around on the street outside with buddies is much less frequent in today’s society. Many modern families organise play dates, gym classes, and birthday parties for their children to socialise with friends but is this enough? Children’s bodies need active play such as running, swinging, skipping, jumping, twirling, climbing, and leaping to ensure their little bodies develop the muscle strength, coordination, agility, balance, dexterity, and fine motor skills required to achieve key childhood developmental milestones. It also encourages a positive relationship with exercise and could make the child less likely to suffer from weight-related health issues. Being outdoor can also ensure that they get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunshine which is essential for a strong immune system, strong bones, and muscle growth which can help their bodies to work and heal more efficiently.
Outdoor Play on Intellectual & Emotional Development
In an outdoor environment, children experience things that can boost their intelligence and creativity. Kids love to use their imagination to create made-up games and use toys and dressing-up in different role play situations to make sense of the world around them. Outdoor spaces provide endless opportunities for this. Children learn by being presented with opportunities to learn independently in safe surroundings. At a park they may be presented with age-appropriate play equipment that allows them to learn new skills and understand how their bodies interact with the physical space around them. They develop self-awareness skills, memories of fun childhood experiences, as well as physical skills allowing them to become more independent, capable of developing more honed skills, and grow more confident in their abilities.
So what can I do if I want to encourage my child to engage in more outdoor play? What’s important is a good balance where children are encouraged to learn digital skills and interact with online media safely as this will be a huge part of their future but also spend time playing outside and enjoying the great outdoors every day as part of their daily routine.
Balancing Outdoor Play and Screen Time for Kids
The trick is to make it fun and be a good role model for your child. Screens tend to be quite addictive, and it can sometimes be quite a challenge for families to get kids off the sofa and into the garden. This tends to be more difficult for parents, nannies, and child carers of adolescents. The most important thing is to make sure that outside time doesn’t feel like a chore. Plan a trip, schedule outdoor time together as a family, and go for a hike or cycling trip. Choose activities that suit your child's personality and interests and encourage them to help choose the activity to keep them involved and motivated. Bring a snack or a book to encourage them to stay and play a bit longer. If you are really stuck, you could try to include technology in an outdoor pursuit to engage your child in an activity. An online map or orienteering app, for example, an art activity, a fun science experiment, or a yoga class on YouTube that will get your kid moving are great options that you can do together in the garden.
So what are you waiting for? Go for a nature walk, swim in the ocean, visit a castle, or collect frog spawn in the stream, as spending more time outside can have huge benefits for the whole family.