By- Tracey Clayton
When you are blessed to have a family and gorgeous kids running around, you’ll do everything to help them become the best versions of themselves, regardless of the hard times, false relationships and difficult surroundings to be living in.
Truth is, apart from the good education, healthy family relationships and the unconditional love, kids need to be taught ways how to interact with children of their age, build relationships and a positive attitude towards life.
With plenty of factors integrated in what we call “upbringing”, there are a few aspects that stand out. One of those aspects is helping children cultivate a healthy approach to spending time outdoors, especially in a time that’s technology-oriented and gadget-focused.
Apart From The Fun Part, Why Is Outdoor Play Important For Children?
While playing outside, children witness a new life, explore with all their senses, spark their curiosity and negotiate with each other to create a playful environment; they can create imaginary worlds which drive their flourishing imagination and they get the opportunity to get to know themselves better.
Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinical psychologist writes, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.”
Children learn ways of the world through open-ended creative play with no necessary structure and/or guidance and rely on their personal judgment for direction.
What Benefits Come From Encouraging Children To Play Outside?
Except that it increases kids’ physical activity levels, improves immune systems, reduces anxiety, promotes socializing with other kids and is extremely fun, there are plenty of additional aspects that make outdoor play the best thing a child in their early age (and later) can experience:
Outdoor Play Is A Multi-Sensory Activity
Children will smell, hear, see and touch things unavailable to them when they play in an indoor space. They’ll engage their brains to understand and process these new stimuli and engage critical thinking to conclude whether they are ok or not with what they’ve just discovered. Further, by actually experiencing things from nature they’ve only prior learned about at school, children are grasping concepts and linking them to the real experience. This form of informal play encourages formal learning.
Outdoor Play Increases Attention Span
Playing outdoors is a natural attention builder which is extremely important for children’s development; research has shown that children who’ve experienced difficulties sitting still for long periods of times are significantly more successful in it after time spent outside.
Outdoor Play Is Imaginative And Stimulates Creativity
When children are given the opportunity to unconditionally explore the world in front of them without being subjected to any pre-conceived ideas and rules, children must create the surroundings they are comfortable with. They start using their imagination extensively by embracing problem-solving situations and are working towards finding a solution through means available to them – stones, rocks, trees, dirt, water, grass… Allowed to use all natural materials and spaces, children’s limitless imagination becomes a medium of inventiveness and creativity.
Outdoor Play Encourages Cooperative Play
Allowed to rely on their skills and work towards a goal, children communicate, brainstorm and finally agree upon solutions that everyone agrees on. They learn to compromise and work together to meet a desired outcome. If you’ve ever observed the way children function at birthday parties with kids party entertainers around, you’ve noticed they communicate way better than adults and that they are using the outcome of that communication for a higher goal – bend the entertainer to their will and play that game they all like one more time. Clever!
Playing Outside Promotes Leadership Skills
Mingling in a group, kids quickly learn who they are as characters even though, at the time, they may not be aware of it yet. In an environment with no parent-influence, kids work together on a goal and natural leaders will arise. What’s wonderful about outdoor child play is that all types of leadership (or lack thereof) are encouraged as there are plenty of opportunities for children to exercise them – while one child may excel at coming up with a new game, the other one may enjoy setting up the physical challenge of an outdoor obstacle course.
Playing Outdoors Helps Children Build Friendships
Spending time outdoors, children interact with one another and may quickly notice similarities and differences between them and their peers. Easily, through game-play they’ll find children they are most alike with and continue building relationships that may easily end up being for life. They’ll also learn to compromise and adapt to children who are a different character to theirs, but still will play and interact with them (read: team work).
Being In Nature Develops Empathy
Spending time in nature lets children understand and appreciate the beauty of living things. Further, they are developing the ability to consider other people’s feelings, by interacting with creatures in nature and observing other children’s reactions to it.
Tracey Clayton is a full time mom of three girls. She loves cooking, baking, sewing, spending quality time with her daughters and she’s passionate for writing. Her motto is: “Live the life you love, love the life you live.”