Why Is Outdoor Play Important for Childhood Development?
We all know that kids need to get outside and play. But did you know that there are many benefits to outdoor play? For one, it helps kids to stay active and get the exercise they need. Additionally, time spent outdoors helps to improve kids’ mental health by reducing stress and anxiety levels. And playing in nature can also boost creativity and imagination. So the next time your child is begging to go outside, don’t hesitate to say yes! It’s good for their body and their mind.
Proven benefits of outdoor play in childhood development include:
- Outdoor play is great for developing motor skills and coordination: spending time outside encourages kids to practice and develop strong motor and coordination skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.
- It helps kids learn about their surroundings and the world around them: kids who spent a lot of time outdoors are more likely to become adults who value nature and protect the environment.
- Playing outside is a fun way to get exercise and fresh air: studies show a direct correlation between a child’s BMI and the amount of time they spend outside. Spending time outside also helps kids absorb vitamin D to build strong bones and teeth!
- It’s a great opportunity for kids to explore their creativity and imagination: activities like television don’t stimulate many of a child’s senses, often relying on sound and sight to engage. Outside, your child will develop all five of their senses in concert as they explore their surroundings. This kind of open-ended play also gives your child a chance to let their creative side take over, imagining their own stories and scenarios rather than having them spelled out for them.
Tips for Encouraging Your Kids to Play Outside
Not all kids are chomping at the bit to go play in the yard or ride their bike! Some kids need a bit of encouragement to move their games and activities outside, and that’s perfectly normal too. Check out these suggestions for encouraging your little explorer to check out the world outside their door.
Explain why it’s important to spend time outside to be healthy and active
Many kids don’t want to be “told” what to do, they want to develop their independence and feel like they’re making their own decisions. You might find that your child doesn’t want to be told how to spend their time but will make good choices on their own when you explain the benefits of certain activities.
Take reading, for example: if your child is always getting drawn into a book about some far-off land, suggest that they match their reading location to the subject matter. Where better to read about enchanted trees than under one or in one? Many parents would encourage their little reader to put down their book and go seek active outdoor play, but your child doesn’t need to be running around playing tag with the neighborhood kids to benefit from fresh air and sunshine. Sharing creative ideas and benefits with them rather than pushing them to do what you want may yield the desired results even faster as your child will feel like they came up with a great idea all on their own.
Set a good example by also spending time outdoors with your kids
We’ve all heard the saying “do as I say, not as I do”, but the best way to get your kids to perform healthy behaviors is to model it yourself. It’s much easier to get your kids to join in on something you’re doing than to convince them to do something you’re not even willing to do yourself. Kids are observant, and they’ll definitely pick up on the things you avoid and don’t enjoy doing. They’re likely to copy your aversions and dislikes, too, so try to find the positive side of experiences you want your child to enjoy!
Don’t hover over your kids (within reason)
We know you’re always worrying about the safety of your children, but it’s important to let them explore their surroundings and have fun with their friends as they develop their independence and sense of self. If you know your child is in a safe area and trust their judgement, then there’s no need to hover and watch their every move. Make sure they’re wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated, and then back off! Obviously, depending on your child’s age, supervision from afar may be necessary, but your child should feel like they can “do their own thing” away from mom and dad as well. You certainly don’t need to constantly interact with your child or narrate what they’re doing, as solo play is important and valuable as well. Take your child’s cues as to whether they prefer to play independently from you or involve you in their games of the day.
Reward them for going outside and playing without screens
We know, we know… why should you reward your child for doing something they should be doing anyway? Well, we’re not above rewarding our kids for small accomplishments and efforts, and maybe you shouldn’t be either. We’re not necessarily suggesting candy or gifts for playing outside, but even a verbal recognition of your child’s effort can go a long way towards reinforcing good behavior and making them feel proud. If you recognize their positive behaviors, they’re more likely to repeat them. We could all use a little more positivity in our lives, and there’s never a bad time to tell your kiddo that you love them and you’re really proud of them!
Outdoor play is essential for kids’ physical and mental health, and it definitely doesn’t need to be an uphill battle getting your child accustomed to playing outside. Luckily, there are plenty of fun outdoor toys to keep them entertained. My Bulle Toys has a wide variety of outdoor toys that will get your kids moving and help improve their well-being. So next time your little one is begging to play outside, don’t hesitate to say yes! You can trust us to provide the best toys for healthy development.