The Importance of Outdoor Play
Research shows that only 10% of children play outside and this is a frightening figure which has lead to a growing concern about the lack of opportunities in outdoor play. Parents are aware of the pressures of TV and other screen devices, and these distract children from playing outside and limits their creativity. Children need motivation and being enthusiastic to play outside is one way of getting them away from screens. The Department for Children, Schools and Families has invested a staggering £235m between 2008 and 2011 to support local authorities, communities and parents to provide safe and exciting outdoor play facilities in the hope that more children will play outdoors. They have given local authorities £1m, which has funded 30 new adventure playgrounds and refurbished 3,500 existing play areas across the UK.
There are also growing concerns about childhood obesity, and one way to prevent a generation of obese children is to encourage them to play outdoors. Physical activity, whether it is running around or trampolining will burn off calories, which will help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Outdoor play can additionally enhance and develop a huge number of skills:
- Social competence
- Problem solving
- Creative thinking and imaginative play
- Safety skills
- Enhances knowledge and awareness of their surroundings
- Develops a child emotionally and socially, through social interactions
- Develops initiative
- Allows children to verbalise through discussion and re-enact scenarios
- Provides a child with a sense of achievement when they have built a den or won a race
- Sensory skills are explored when playing with mud, grass, sticks and sand
- Gain self confidence in their own ability
- Develops gross and fine motor skills through tying ropes, throwing, jumping, leaping and running
- Strengthen muscles when swinging, running, jumping
- Hand eye coordination developed when balancing
- Teaches a child about cause and effect and spatial awareness
The outdoors provide unlimited chances for kids to explore and create
Our Good Toy Guide has a wide range of outdoor toys for children of all stages of development, that enhance a range of skills. Toys such as a the Red Bullet Bike, Scramblebug, Italtrike la Cosa, and the Zebra Sit n Ride all require balance and promote coordination which provide children with self-confidence in their ability to succeed. If your child is creative then why not grab some 3D chalk and let kids be expressive or playing game such as hangman to enhance their social, literacy and motor skills.
Trampolining and space hoppers can promote balance, social development and core stability. There is also swing ball, a tennis style game that will promote social development such as turn taking, develop hand eye coordination and help upper arm, hand and wrist development. Swings are a simple outdoor activity but will provide a child with vast amount of stimulation, as they will be learning about motions of forward and back, balance and cause and effect of not holding on. They will be developing spatial awareness and their coordination skills will be enhanced, as they will be in a rhythm through manipulating the swing.
If you’re on a budget you can also try these great outdoor play activities:
- Act out a story
- Have a picnic
- Jumping in puddles
- Blowing Bubbles,
- Cloud gazing
- Mini obstacle course
- Treasure hunt
- Den building
- Hide and seek
- Stuck in the mud
- A nature hunt
- Penalty shoot out
Why not get your child some outdoor clothes and let them explore their environment rain or shine in an exciting, non structured and adventurous way.
Children need to get first hand experience of the outside world, instead of only getting second hand experience from the TV and research has shown that children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) have better attention after they have experienced and taken part in activities with “natural green elements”. The outdoors also lowers aggressive thoughts due to the therapeutic feel.
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer