The importance of outdoor play for children

We know that play is an important factor in the development of children. It allows them to develop creativity, imagination, dexterity, physical strength and emotional strength. It is one of the biggest factors to health brain development. 

Whether indoor play or outdoor play, your child will still be developing these crucial steps in their life. However, outdoor play offers so many benefits on top of brain development, and it is a very effective form of combatting the cost of children’s toys!

There are two major components of outdoor play. Firstly, the health and wellbeing elements, and then the fun factor. 

Health and Wellbeing Advantages of Outdoor Play

Most of us probably have really good memories of playing outside as children – playing with friends, heading off to the park, discovering a little creek somewhere, no rules, nothing to break, just good old-fashioned fun; and what we don’t realise is the benefits we were receiving from this type of play. 

As adults, we often don’t realise how beneficial outdoor play can be. Children can play how they want, move how they need to, discover new things and simply take in the environment around them. A piece on The Conversation really highlights the health benefits to playing outside:

“When children are allowed to play the way they want to play in stimulating environments, they move more, sit less and play longer. They get their hands in the dirt and are exposed to microbes that help them build their immunity. They make their own goals and figure out the steps to attain those goals… They learn, build resilience and develop their social skills, learn how to manage risks and keep themselves safe. Their eyes get the exercise they need to help combat short-sightedness.”

When we sit back and take that in and add in the benefits of combatting obesity and assisting with the immune system, we can start to see how much just 30 to 60 minutes can really help a child’s development. That 30 to 60 minutes doesn’t need to be in one go. In fact, you may be more inclined to spread the time outdoors across the day, especially in warmer areas where children will heat up quickly. 

The Fun Aspects of Outdoor Play

The other element to outdoor play is the fun side. Let’s be honest, there aren’t too many parents who relish picking up after their children have spread their toys over the loungeroom day after day; and while getting children to help pick up their toys, this is often easier said than done, especially with younger children. 

But outside play can give a child the opportunity to explore the natural environment around them, play games and test their physical limits (perfect for toddlers learning to jump, run or climb). It also means more mess – painting, playing in the sandpit, digging in the garden and water play are great ways to help your child develop while getting all the benefits of playing outside. 

As noted on the Raising Children Network site, being outdoors, a child has “more space and freedom for big movements like running, jumping, kicking and throwing. Physical activities like these are good for your child’s health, fitness and physical development.”

How to Safely Let Your Child Play Outdoors

With older children, you can often just open the door and let them out to play. They will very quickly come up with their own games or start to explore the environment around them. Younger children however may need a helping hand and they will need supervision. These younger children do love to help, and letting them help you weed the garden path, sweep the driveway, water the garden and bring in the clothes off the line are great for their development skills. 

If you don’t have a large yard, heading off to the park or playground is a great way to give your child more room to run around in. You can even use this as a time of learning, teaching them around road safety and social skills. 

Outdoor play isn’t just for those children who are crawling or walking. Younger babies will also enjoy time outside, watching the trees, listening to birds, and doing sensory activities like feeling the grass or playing in a splash pool. 

Contributor: Simone O’Brien

Simone O’Brien is the founder of the Treasured Tots Child Care network in Perth, WA. After first starting a day care in Melville, she couldn’t help notice the constant enquiries, interest and rapid growth of the waiting list for quality education and care in the area. With the support of her husband, she has grown Treasured Tots into a quality early education child care network, with locations across Perth, in Fremantle, Mandurah and Bibra Lake.

At Treasured Tots we encourage outdoor play with our children. Our Wellness Program encourages children being physically and emotionally strong and healthy, while also learning how to deal with challenges in life. Being outdoors allows them to explore in a safe environment and allows us to help lay the foundations for happy, healthy, resilient and aware children. 

Author: Sim K