The Importance of Playing Outside [AD]
This is a collaborative post with Fatmoose Climbing Frames
It goes without saying that playing outside is an important part of childhood development. It encourages children to explore and remain curious, and it offers opportunities to experience new things such as different smells and textures. Not only that, but an hour outside – even if it’s exploring the garden climbing frames – is wonderful exercise for the whole family.
I am sure you remember fond memories of jumping in puddles, climbing trees, and picking up all sorts of creatures – much to the delight of the grownups around you. Sadly, however, a recent study in the UK found that children now only spend half the time playing outside in comparison to when their parents were children.
Contributing factors to this change relate to an increase in the use of electronic tablets, not to mention the ever changing weather. In the UK in particular, it can be a struggle to get little ones out of the house – even for an hour – due to the weather, but early Childhood Professionals understand the importance of play and would encourage you to get out no matter what the weather looks like. Besides, how are you going to experience a puddle or a rainbow without the rain?
With this in mind, here are our reasons why you should prioritise getting out and about. We’ve also included some practical tips to maximize learning along the way.
Children can be whatever they want to be – a Pirate Captain, a Vet, a Fire Fighter, so when you put that imagination into the outside world, the possibilities are endless! Can you imagine what a tree looks like when you’re pretending to be a bird?
Tip: If you know you’re going to the woods, why not let them take something (that you are happy to carry later on!) that puts playing outside into a whole new level.
The moment children play outdoors they increase their ability to balance, climb, throw, jump, run, dive and skip. Therefore, the more you get outside the more they’ll be able to fine tune these vital skills.
Tip: Turn your visit to the woods into a troll-hunting exercise or treasure hunt! Follow foot prints, gather sticks to build a den, before eventually running away from the trolls!
It goes without saying that getting outside does wonders for your health. If it’s not the vitamins in (safe) sun exposure, it’s the exercise you’ll get by chasing a ball or climbing a tree.
After a long day at the beach I know I sleep better and my mood has been instantly lifted.
Tip: Always pack a big bottle of water if you’re going to be outside for long periods. This will keep you both hydrated and clean if you happen to get messy!
Looking After the Environment
With the change in climate happening around us as we speak, it’s so important to teach your children about the importance of recycling, and not leaving litter behind on walks. Following set paths, and not creating new ones (and in turn damaging established plant-life) will mean that walks can be enjoyed for many years to come.
Tip: Next time you visit the beach, why not take a little picker with you and give the area a little spruce?
Learning About the World Around You
Similar to discussing the importance of looking after the environment, learning about woodland residents or sea creatures gives children a new respect for the world they’re in. If you visit somewhere often, why not try and visit in all four seasons to show your children the ways in which the location changes.
Tip: There are loads of resources online where you can print off nature-themed scavenger hunts. Take one of these with you to add something extra to your trip to the woods.
Meeting New People
Regardless of how many siblings your children have, it’s inevitable that as soon as they see another child – whether it’s in the park or at the beach – they’re going to watch what that child is doing. If they’re confident, they may even join them in their game of pirates.
This is a wonderful opportunity to improve social and negotiation skills, and will come in handy later on when they enter into a new environment such as school or an after-school activity.
Tip: Next time you visit the park, why not take an extra spade with you so your child can bring something to the game.