It’s summer! The sun is out, the grass is green, and the weather is perfect for playing outside! You know that your kids love running and playing in the fresh air, but did you know that outdoor play is incredibly important to childhood development? Read on to learn how outdoor play can benefit your child!
The CDC recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day for children. Outdoor play gives children the space to run, climb, roll, tumble, and skip as much as their heart desires! Physical activity has many benefits for growing children, including stronger bones, improved immune function, greater heart health, and weight maintenance. A natural environment also provides unpredictable features that cannot be reproduced in an indoor setting – playing on different surfaces (sand, grass, dirt, etc.) helps improve motor skills such as balance and coordination! Finally, after exerting so much energy playing outside, your child will sleep much better – and better sleep means better recovery and even more benefits in the long run!
Outdoor play provides an unstructured environment for your little ones to grow their independence! Playgrounds, uneven terrain, trees, rocks – all these elements provide opportunities for children to exercise their risk assessment and problem solving abilities! When navigating these obstacles doesn’t work out, encourage your kids to keep trying – as they figure out how to conquer these challenges, their confidence and independence will grow! Soon you will see them applying their growing range of skills to other aspects of life!
Your little ones are probably huge fans of playing pretend, and playing outdoors provides a new and constantly changing environment to interact with! Playing games with imaginary characters and settings encourages creativity and independent thought, and the result is a happier child. Imaginative play also improves problem solving skills and can help develop empathy – encourage your child to imagine characters with feelings and emotions that are reflected in the storyline.
The majority of childhood social interaction takes place in highly controlled environments – at home, daycare, school, extracurricular sports, etc. This allows your child to meet other children, but the rules and expectations of the environment can prevent in-depth social interaction and the formation of lasting friendships. Unstructured outdoor play with other children allows your child to interact with other kids on their own terms. Your child can learn important social skills such as sharing, cooperation, and empathy. When these interactions go poorly, take the opportunity to improve communication skills – encourage your child to express their frustrations in a constructive manner. Learning to communicate, empathize, and cooperate with others early in life can help your child form strong and healthy relationships later.
This barely scratches the surface of all the benefits of outdoor play! Summer will be over before you know it, so get outside and explore the great outdoors with your little ones!