7 Surprising and Valuable Benefits of Outdoor Play

As technology advances and we have a wide range of films, TV shows, and games at our fingertips, it’s easy to spend a lot of our time in front of a screen. The current generation of children have been born into a world that’s dominated by technology and they’ll grow up into a society that’s technologically evolved beyond our imaginations.

Children from a very young age are now able to easily navigate their way around a tablet or smartphone and whilst this will continue to be a key part of their life, it’s also important that they regularly engage in outdoor play. We all know that going outside and getting some fresh air is encouraged – but what exactly are the benefits of outdoor play for little ones?

In this blog, we’ve explored and researched the impact playing outside can have on children, including the physical skills they’ll develop and the psychological benefits they’ll experience.

Develop Stronger Social Skills

Without the distraction of television or other technology, playing outdoors is a great way of getting little ones to interact together and take part in social play. A lot of outdoor play equipment is specifically designed for multiple children to enjoy, with double swings, playsets, and seesaws giving kids the opportunity to share the fun together. Any parent will agree that play dates are a lot easier when children are keeping themselves occupied playing outdoors.

Shy children who struggle being introduced to new people can find an indoor environment confining and intimidating. If you introduce your child to other children in the open outdoors, you could find that your little one might relax and start socialising much sooner than they normally would.

Children playing with playhouse

Deepen their Imagination

Children who spend more time outdoors discover new and different sensory stimulants that they wouldn’t ordinarily experience inside. From smelling different plants and flowers to feeling the differing textures of mud and grass, nature gifts children with a broad spectrum of new sensory experiences. Having these experiences will increase the depths of your child’s imagination and the outside world will provide them with a platform to take on new adventures.

If your child is more introverted, having a personal area outdoors gives them a private space where they feel safe to let their imagination to run wild. A playhouse or den is a space that they will really feel is their own.

Child playing with playhouse

Encourage Independence and Build Confidence

There’s something about the freedom of the outdoors that encourages us to be that little be bolder – and the same applies for children. Watch your child play with others in a public play park and they’ll suddenly develop the confidence to use the taller slide, climb a little higher, and spin a little faster without looking to you for encouragement.

As they get older and their confidence grows, they’ll start to take on new challenges in the outdoors. As they take on these new feats they’ll learn and refine their ability to measure risk versus reward, a valuable skill they’ll utilise for the rest of their lives.

Little boy swinging in playground

Refine Balance & Motor Skills

The outdoors offers a mix of terrain and changing surfaces, meaning children from a young age will naturally develop their balancing skills when playing in natural spaces. Climbing frames further enhance this skill as they learn how to place their footing in order to safely navigate their way up and around the frame.

As well as their balance, outdoor play will also aid in developing both their gross and fine motors skills. Playing on a swing set will require them to coordinate their body with their hands and it’ll be a proud moment for any parent when their child learns to swing without needing a push.

Toddler and adult in wellies climbing a log

Learn Teamwork

Outdoor team sports give children the opportunity to learn how to work as a team in a fun and rewarding way. Whether you play a game together as a family in the garden or sign them up to a local team, children will quickly learn that when a group coordinates and follows the same rules, they can reach a positive result together.

As well as discovering the importance of teamwork, team sports like football or netball will also teach your child to strategise and think several moves ahead; this in turn improves their cooperation, focus, and self awareness.

Children playing football

Health & Wellbeing

One of the most recognisable benefits of outdoor play is the fact that your child is getting their recommended daily exercise. The endorphins released from exercise contribute towards a healthy mind and it has been found that regularly engaging in outdoor play reduces stress levels in children. A study done by the University of Essex found that just five minutes of green exercise rapidly improves mental wellbeing and self esteem, with the highest improvement seen in young people.

Along with the mood-boosting endorphins that exercising releases, exposing children to sunlight has another positive effect in the form of increased levels of vitamin D. Ensuring that your child has sufficient levels of vitamin D will aid in keeping them healthy, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced muscle function, and poor bone health.

children smiling in playhouse

Knowing & Appreciating Nature

One of the lesser considered benefits of outdoor play is a new love and appreciation for the natural world. Being out and about will prompt your child to ask questions about nature that they may not ordinarily learn from a book or TV show. Finding out that conkers make great toys, that a dock leaf will ease the pain of a nettle sting, and that their delicious fruit snacks grow on trees are all experiences that’ll give them a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Even if their TV programmes aim to teach these facts, children are likely to absorb information better from direct interaction with someone familiar than they would if they were given the information unprompted by a presenter on TV.

Children who are exposed to the outdoors from a young age will naturally develop a strong appreciation for the outdoors. This will be a good foundation for them to understand the impact humans can have on the outside world once they’re older, encouraging them to treat nature with respect.

Little girl smelling plant

Does your little one love to play outdoors? Let us know in the comments what is your child’s favourite game in the garden and if you’ve noticed any other benefits of outdoor play.

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