From the moment our children could move by themselves, they have always preferred to be outdoors come rain or shine. On the days that it’s raining we pull on the wellies and raincoats so that we can get stuck in with puddle jumping, it’s what being a child is all about.
I love that the majority of schools now have outdoor classrooms and play equipment, so much better than being stuck indoors all day long. I love the idea of having a garden office that I can open up to let the outdoors in so why wouldn’t a child want to do the same?
So what are the benefits of encouraging outdoor play? Besides keeping your house tidier of course . . .
Unless you’re one of those parents who doesn’t mind having the world and his kid coming to play at your house than spending time in the house can get pretty lonely and a little bit dull. My Beans all love each other but they do tire of each other so going outdoors to play they can interact with other children who live close by. We are lucky to live in an area where there are lots of families with children of a similar age so they all play together relatively nicely. They fall out but what kids don’t fall out? It’s all part of the great learning curve and will stand them in good stead for their adult years.
Playing outdoors with others teaches children to work as a group, manage conflicts, negotiate and share. It can improve confidence and develop healthy relationships with others. If you watch them playing with friends you will see a natural hierarchy evolve.
With so much space to cover outdoors, they can run, jump, climb, skip, cycle, scoot and skateboard all of which provide cardiovascular exercise and get their blood pumping which will increase their oxygen levels. It’s also great for tiring them out so that they sleep better at night! Lots of outdoor physical activity will increase their strength and improve their immune systems. Time spent outdoors will also increase their Vitamin D levels which can protect against osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.
Playing outdoors is a stimulating environment, with lots of colours, sounds, smells and textures. Outdoors there are new problems to solve and areas to explore which all help the brain to develop and grow in its early years. Playing outdoors helps children to focus better when they are in the classroom and encourages creativity.
Learning through play
As a parent, it can be so easy to focus on the ‘adult stuff’ and worry that their clothes will get dirty, that they will get dirty or catch germs. I always remember watching a 10-month-old sitting on the grass with a worm they had found. They turned the worm over and over in their hands, they dropped it, picked it up and dropped it again. A friend said to the mother with a worrisome expression on her face “oh have you seen she is playing with a worm?” and the mother said, “yes but she isn’t hurting it and it isn’t hurting her, she is just learning”. I liked that, it was nice to see the little girl so fascinated by this creature without her Mum rushing over to wash her hands.