Thirty or forty years ago, playing inside the house was unheard of. Children would always go outside to play, sometimes for a minimum of 2 hours a day. Nowadays, it’s a different story. Due to all the technology, screens and gadgets, kids aren’t playing outside nearly as much as they should be. In fact, 43% of children would prefer to stay indoors and play with technology, rather than getting outside amongst the fresh air. So, how do you get your kids to swap the screens for the garden?
The importance of outdoor play
Outdoor play is an essential component of a child’s development. It allows them the freedom to explore the natural environment, improve their strength and coordination, and burn energy in a healthy way.
Other reasons to encourage your child to play outside are:
- It gives them a chance to use their sense of adventure and imagination.
- Outdoor play allows kids a chance to learn their physical limits, and challenge them if they want to.
- They have more space to run around and burn energy without the risk of bumping into furniture or sharp corners.
- Outdoor play will improve their overall fitness and physical development.
- Playing outside can lower your child’s risk of developing short-sightedness.
- A healthy dose of Vitamin D from the sun is always good – though always remember to lather up your little ones with sunscreen.
8 tips to encourage outdoor play
1. Start small
Do you have a backyard? If so, start from there rather than taking your child straight to a public space like a park, which is further away from their comfort zone and has more stimuli which may become overwhelming. Be sure to supervise them incase they get into any tricky situations or need to get inside to go to the bathroom, but otherwise, try to keep them outside until they are tired out. Try adding toys resembling the streets to help your child get used to the outside world, like toy road signs.
2. Make it fun
This will depend on your child’s age, but adding a little make-believe is a sure-fire way to get their imaginations running wild. Would they be interesting in hunting for buried treasure with a map in hand? Or maybe they would like to pretend they’re in the jungle, trying to cross a river to get to the otherside? Creating fun, imaginative games that can only be done outdoors is a great way to get your kids outside and cultivating their own fun.
3. Take their favourite indoor toys to the outdoors
Many kids will really appreciate being able to take something from inside their home to the outside in order to feel more relaxed. Their favourite indoor toy is the perfect place to start – as long as it’s not a screen! It could be lego, building blocks, costumes, or anything that can withstand the outdoor elements.
4. Take them to a variety of places
Once your child is used to the backyard and local park, start venturing a little further. Try taking them to a botanical garden, national park, coastal walk, river, beach or the countryside. The more varied the environments you can expose them to, the better.
5. Provide them with fun outdoor toys
Make the outside world especially inviting for your children by incorporating outdoor toys. Think cubby houses, balance bikes, ride-on toy ponies, push & pull toys, pedal cars & ride ons – even teepees! This will make a huge difference for your child, especially if he or she feels a bit shy or nervous about the outdoors. It’ll also provide a safe extension of your home, where they can feel secure.
6. Involve them in everyday, outside activities
Start including the kids in outside chores, such as cleaning the outdoor furniture, washing the dog, feeding the pets, hanging the clothes on the line, light gardening or weeding. Allow them to accompany you around with a mini-wheelbarrow, so they feel a sense of importance while helping mum or dad with the outdoor chores.
7. Make it a family affair
If your kids spend most of their week with one parent, try to establish the outdoors as family bonding time, where they can enjoy playing outside with the whole family. Activities such as family cycling trips or hiking will help them to start associating the outdoors with positive and quality family time, and they’ll also learn from your example as a parent. You could even have a family calendar of outdoor adventures and different parks around the area you can explore.
8. Water is your friend
If it's summer and the temperatures are nice, then water is a great incentive to let your kids let loose outdoors. Sprinklers, water guns, toy tugboats and other similar accessories are great ways to encourage your kids to experience and appreciate the great outdoors.
Improve your child’s overall well-being with outdoor play
Each child has a different personality which will influence how they play, the way they interact with other children, and the environment in which they feel most comfortable in. If they are the indoor type, it can be hard to get them out and about, but with these tips, you should be able to get your child appreciating the outdoors a little bit more each day.