The warmer weather is finally here! What better time of year to promote outdoor play for your children? Making the most of the longer days and beautiful weather is a great way to promote a healthy respect for the great outdoors. Read on to find out how YOUR child could grow and develop via structured, and unstructured, outdoor play.
Outdoor Play (for indoor kids)
Our children tend to spend a lot of time indoors. There’s time at school, structured after-school activities in venues like halls, and (let’s admit it) an increasing amount of screen time. No matter how you look at it, screen time is becoming a significant problem for today’s children and as parents, we often feel a lot of guilt associated with it. It’s easier to plop them in front of the television or the iPad and justify their screen time with educational games and activities. Their little eyes are glued to screens and they zone out, discarding the world around them in favour of tiny characters and games that bleep and bloop.
Our children are lacking in exercise and exposure to their natural environment. We’re seeing evidence of this in recent studies that show the childhood obesity epidemic approaching catastrophic levels. We KNOW that we need to get our kids more active, but the question becomes – how are we to do it when time is of the essence? How can we provide outdoor play activities to our children when we’re run off our feet with work and the demands of running a household?
Screen time starts young and infiltrates how our children feel about the world as they grow. We’ve all seen teenagers absolutely glued to screens and we know about the dangers of being engulfed in the world of social media. This is a trend that we need to be aware of but it’s difficult to figure out how to stem the tide of screen time in a world that’s increasingly becoming more insular and ‘indoorsy.’
The promotion of outdoor play is key. Helping our children develop healthy habits is the ideal. But how do we get there? The answer is starting them young.
Outdoor Play for Small Children
Fostering a healthy love and respect for the great outdoors can be easy when you create outdoor play environments that children will respond to with gusto. Gardening, exploring, playing in sandpits and with outdoor equipment – all of these are key strategies that you can use to help grow their excitement (and allow yourself to get amongst the outdoor life as well). Imaginary play is key here – constructing, earth-moving, building, gardening and water play can create a wealth of opportunities to tap into your child’s creative spirit in an environment removed from technology.
Playing outdoors promotes resilience, curiosity and healthy habits – all of which are vital to the growth and development of our young children into healthy teens. Children can expand their learning world while growing their ability to communicate and play independently.
Physical, outdoor play is crucial as it allows children to develop and practise their physical abilities. Little muscles are strengthened and both fine and gross motor skills are developed. There is also evidence to suggest that hand-eye coordination and overall health and wellbeing are improved by introducing outdoor play into your daily life.
No More Couch Potatoes
Limited screen time, in an appropriate context, is fine. Children need to develop their tech skills to keep up to date with not only their current curriculum but their future employment and lifestyle prospects.
The danger arises when the screen time takes over. Placing a limit on screen time and increasing outdoor play opportunities allows your child to develop new skills and interests. Outdoor play encourages a love for sports, physical activities and can promote sharing and cooperation – all of which are vital when it comes to developing the capacity to make healthy lifestyle choices. The resilience that comes from outdoor play is a dynamic that will assist your child to be able to cope with the demands of school, work and social expectations.
Outdoor Play? Hip Hip Hooray!
Consider how outdoor play can benefit your family. It can bring everyone together with a common goal – be it gardening or racing around the back yard. It provides improved chances of developing social skills, motor skills and emotional skills. Your child will thank you for the opportunity to get involved and they’ll love to see you along for the ride!
Our advice? Make time for outdoor play. Encourage your child to put the screens down and turn their attention to the great outdoors instead. The sun on your face, the wind in your hair and the knowledge that you’re developing little learners is reward enough. Who knows, it might do you some good as well!