The features and stimulus provided by the outdoor environment offers children unique play opportunities that cannot be replicated inside. It provides an open and constantly changing environment, where children are encouraged to engage with the natural elements. With indoor activities like pretend-playing and cooking as a learning activity, playing outdoor is astonishingly significant as well.
While playing outdoors, children are soaking up sunlight and fresh air - contributing to physical development and wellbeing, better immune systems and stronger bone development. As we evaluate and consider the increasing number of obese and overweight children, the importance of being more physically active is evident.
Children who are frequently exposed to the outdoors are much more likely to pursue activities such as walking, running and cycling in later life. This ultimately lays a strong foundation for their overall health and wellbeing.
Children playing outside get the opportunity to run, jump, throw and catch, pull, lift and carry objects. These activities all promote motor skill development. According to Lund (2018) optometry and vision science, studies indicate that children who spend more time outside on a regular basis have better vision than those who remain indoors. Outdoor play, therefore, leads to a reduced risk of myopia, or nearsightedness.
Outdoor play invites children to be inventive as they explore and discover. Children utilise their skills and extend their abilities as they learn about the world around them. Research indicates that children who spend more time outside in nature, develop a greater appreciation of plant and wildlife, becoming bigger supporters of conservation of the environment. Outdoor play further provides children with the opportunity to develop their social skills by interacting, collaborating and negotiating with others.
Engaging in outdoor play leads to increased curiosity and self-directed play, tasks that require a longer attention span and more time. Additionally, studies show that children diagnosed with ADHD exhibit fewer symptoms as they spend more time outside.
Children who spend more time in the green outdoors, often indicate lower stress levels and demonstrate a more cheerful disposition. They have enhanced opportunities to test their skills, overcome their fears and develop a lifelong connection with the soothing aspects of nature.
Children learn so much through their senses. Think of a child’s delight at seeing spotting something new in the garden, bending down to smell the flowers, listening to raindrops splashing and stomping in puddles. As children learn by applying their senses, they not only develop their problem-solving skills or promote scientific thinking, they further strengthen nerve connections in the brain.
Children need opportunities to play outside, to engage in self-initiated adventures and outdoor challenges that are not only adult-controlled activities. While connecting with nature, dealing with risk and socialising with friends, the outdoor environment has a powerful and positive impact on children’s motivation and enthusiasm in everyday life.
Contributed By Miss Alesha, Educator, Turtletot Daycare Bexley