Why is Outdoor Play Important in Early Childhood?
The great outdoors is a natural wonderland of play and adventure for inquisitive infants. With lockdown huffing and puffing us behind brick walls for the past year, our kids have never been more excited about the opportunity to get out and about. But there is so much more to playing outside than defying pandemic parameters. So, join Jaques of London, as we look forward to the summer sun and ask, why is outdoor play important in early childhood?
Mental Well-Being – Outdoor play isn’t just about building dens and muscles. Our children thrive on outdoor play, with teachers keen to highlight the importance of the great outdoors for maintaining focus in the classroom. In fact, a long term survey found that 97% of teachers consider outdoor play to be critical for children to reach their full potential. Children are also afforded a stronger sense of independence via outdoor play, with an increased level of space not afforded by parents and care-givers elsewhere.
Physical Fitness – In addition to an added dose of vitamin D, outdoor play means activity. Physical inactivity can have numerous negative knock-on effects for growing children. With the UK having one of the highest child obesity rates in Europe, regular exercise has never been more important. In addition to stabilising our energy usage, regular outdoor play decreases the risks of adult cardiovascular diseases, whilst also strengthening bones and muscles. This carries over to the classroom, with physical health having a direct correlation to cognitive development.
Motor Skills – We begin the development of gross and fine motor skills from an early age. However, ongoing development of said skill are vital to allow for full engagement with ongoing activities. Building upon balance and coordination makes physical activity easier as we get older, increasing our ability to fine tune physical skills in games and sports. Better still, these skills have a direct affect upon our bodies ability to stay free from injury. Whether skipping or swinging, outdoor play is the perfect way to stay healthy.
Social Interaction – Outdoor play allows children to play more freely with others. This is incredibly important in building self-confidence and making new friends. Indoor play is more likely to lead to isolated playtime, slowing progress in the ability to understand and collaborate with their peers. Social interaction leads to better skills in collaborative play, with lessons in sharing, sportsmanship, setting team goals and coping with defeat. Outdoor games are largely focussed on team play, so be sure to say hello to the sun when looking to develop strong social skills.
A Break from the Screen – Children’s screen time in the UK is an ongoing concern for parents on the verge of an iPaddy. Half of 10 year olds are now thought to own their own smartphone, with a recent Ofcom report on child screen activity finding that the number of 5-15 year olds playing video games continues to rise, year-on-year.
A Love of Nature – Nature is a great healer. Research shows that, for adults and children alike, an affinity with the outside world offers great relief for a number of serious mental health issues. In addition to reducing anxiety and stress, time spent in the great outdoors is likely to reduce symptoms of anger and depression. Better still, an understanding of nature from an early age can open all kinds of avenues for later life. Whether a poet, author or artist, the great outdoors is a blank easel bound canvas of possibilities.
Sensory Growth – So many of our children’s daily activities revolve around reading, writing, and watching. In fact, with so much time spent in the classroom and glued to the ever-growing number of household devices available to them, developing children can be limited when shying away from outdoor activities. Sensory processing issues can have a profound impact on children, with social interaction and learning functionality directly affected.
With time spent outside, the wonderful smells of nature and tastes of naturally growing fruits can help children to process their full range of senses more successfully as they grow.
Outdoor play has so many possibilities and benefits for the health and mental well-being of our children. Through physical activity and social engagement, our children will grow into well-rounded adventurers. So, say goodbye to the screen and venture outside for a free dose of vitamin fun!
For more fabulous activity and education related resources, take a run over to the Mini Minds Hub.