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The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Kids

Do you remember the days of playing outside when you were a kid? The times when you’d run around, inventing games, riding bikes, and climbing trees until the sun started to set… There was always a feeling of happy exhaustion after this kind of active play. After dinner you’d be straight off to bed, and rise with the sun the next day to do it all again. Nowadays, children are more likely to spend time in front of a tablet or a gaming device than outside with the wind in their hair. Playtime has moved indoors.

There are lots of different reasons why children aren’t spending nearly as much time in natural surrounds as they once did. It’s understandable to be concerned with safety, but mollycoddling kids too much has led to an increase in conditions that adversely affect their health and learning abilities. These conditions include asthma, dyspraxia, and obesity. There’s even a new term to describe these adverse development traits – natural deficit disorder.
There is a growing body of evidence that supports the importance of outdoor play for kid’s development. Read on for an overview of all the benefits of encouraging kids to play in the great outdoors. This includes boosts to your child’s learning ability, as well as encouraging an appreciation for an active lifestyle early on in their lives.

Learning and developmental benefits

Part of the wonderful things about playing outside is that it appeals to kids’ sense of curiosity as they connect with nature. Learning about new things like the lifecycle of a butterfly or why the leaves fall in autumn are super interesting for children, and learning new things can also give them a confidence boost.
As kids run around outside, they’re often free from their parents’ ears and involvement. This gives children the chance to talk amongst themselves and develop confidence with themes of phonology, grammar, and syntax. It’s also a great opportunity for their imaginations to run wild.
Outdoor play also provides a good setting for kids to develop their capacity to relate to one another. Again, outdoor play has another benefit to kids, thanks to the freedom from adult involvement. Children playing in groups outside are able to develop their own friendships and ways to engage socially, than they would be able to with their parents supervising their playdates.

Physical benefits

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Playing chasing games, clambering through streams, and running around outside are an awesome way to keep your kids active. It’s important that they connect physical activity as a good experience from a young age, as it can be incredibly difficult to learn to enjoy physical activity if you have already established inactive habits in adulthood.
The advantage of outdoor play is that it doesn’t feel like exercise. Rather than a set activity or sport, playing outside will get kids engaged in motor and manipulative activities without them appearing like a chore or obligation.

How to mitigate the dangers of outdoor play

One of the biggest reasons that kids are cooped up indoors is that their parents are worried about their safety. Rightly so! Stranger danger and busy roads are certainly things to be avoided in order to protect your kids. Here are some ideas that can help your kids play outside safely and give them some street smarts.

  • Teach your kids to be watchful rather than careful. You don’t want to scare them or put them off outdoor play, and this phrasing encourages kids to keep an eye out and respond accordingly instead of being immediately scared.
  • Go for walks with your child and teach them about road safety laws.
  • Set clear boundaries about where kids are allowed to play in your local park or nature reserve.
  • Talk to your child about stranger danger, and teach them what to do if they feel unsafe.
  • Make sure they know how to get home via public transport. Go on journeys together so that they feel comfortable and safe doing so.
  • As children get older and start to go out by themselves, make sure there is a system in place so you know where they’re going, when they will be back, and who they are spending time with. Establishing this early on will save a lot of stress down the track!
  • Get involved with your local community. This way you can create a network of trusted adults to look out for your child.
  • Go on group play dates and encourage your child to play with others. There is safety in numbers, and your little ones will learn to look out for one another.

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