Kids Playing Outdoors – It’s Vital
With the advent of technology, computers and social media, today’s children have frequently substituted outdoor play for indoor use of screens. Outdoor play is an essential part of a healthy and happy childhood. As well as fostering self-esteem, a sense of community and a love of nature, outdoor play encourages intellectual and emotional growth.
In childhood people are responsive to learning and understanding their world. Screens have taken over as the primary source of knowledge and learning for all ages – including young children. Also, many social interactions are carried out on screens, with the use of social media as a babysitting forum. Many parents are concerned for their children’s physical safety while they are outdoors and they believe it is better that they know exactly where their children are, and if they are kept indoors they will be out of harm’s way. But parents can take an active part in the outdoor activities of their children.
Children need the outdoors to learn and grow. Fresh air and sunshine and vitamin D play a huge part in the development and health of children. The way to obtain these is to be free to play and run and jump – outside. Friends can enjoy being together outside, talking, cycling, walking or playing games and sport. Active children are healthy children and outside games are far more likely to provide activity that burns off energy, as well as physical challenges, than indoor activities. Studies have shown that children who spend time outside have better distance vision than those who spend most of their time indoors. Research suggests that seeing green spaces can help to reduce the stress that children experience. While exploring their environment, children develop muscle strength and better coordination by being outside. Outdoor activities also increase flexibility, and sports provide for the enhancement of fine and gross motor skills.
Having lots of friends is an important part of growing and maturing. The outdoors offers a chance for more social interaction with peers, which helps build a sense of community. Unstructured play promotes many skills. Social skills, such as pushing another child on the swing, are learned outside. Other behaviors and executive functions are learned while freely playing outside.
Intellectual development is encouraged as outdoor play offers more opportunities for free play and creativity. Building cubby houses and forts offers children a sense of freedom along with an ability to determine engineering principles. Outdoor play helps to develop their observational skills and also their assessment of risk.
Children are able to experience nature by climbing trees, digging in the sand or mud, paddling in streams, hiding in tall grass or inventing exciting adventures games. Interaction with nature and other people builds confidence as they learn new things, and helps to stimulate a child’s curiosity and creativity.
Parents can interact and be with their children while they are outside, or they may be able to supervise them from nearby. Older children need wider boundaries and should be able to wander further afield and explore the world while still being safe.
Community plays an important role in enabling children to have more freedom to roam. The more often you and your children interact with neighbours, friends and families and other residents in your area, the more you are building a network where the children are being watched over and where they are watching out for others.