The weather may be chilly now, but spring will be back before we know it. No matter what the weather is, playing outside is an important part of childhood, especially now that screen time is such a large part of your child’s day. With the rise in remote and online learning as well as smartphones and tablets, your child could be spending 7 hours a day or more on screened devices.
Encouraging your child to spend more time outdoors and away from screens helps their physical well-being and encourages them to improve their emotional and intellectual health. Here are several ways playing outdoors can help your child:
- Improved motor skills. Outdoor play leaves kids with more advanced motor skills than their “indoor” peers, including in coordination, balance, and agility. Kids who play outside are more likely to challenge their muscles, bones, and physical endurance. When children are outside, they have the space to run, walk, jump, and play with outside toys like balls and swings, all of which they can’t use inside. This allows your child to strengthen their body and become more confident in their capabilities.
- Improved health. It’s no secret that exercise is a huge part of having a healthy and long life, and this is just as true for your child. Aside from the obvious benefits like better muscle and bone health, proper exposure to sunlight improves moods and strengthens immune systems. Outdoor play also helps children with learning differences like ADHD by giving them an outlet for the activity and energy that often create issues indoors.
- Increased openness with adults. The link is not obvious, but letting your child play outdoors more often will lead to them being more open with you and their other caregivers. When children spend time outside, they generally feel less overwhelmed because they are not cooped up or competing with others for attention. Having the physical space to move and breathe openly often results in your child being more willing to open up about things with you or even with their teachers.
- Increased self-awareness. Being outdoors allows your child to explore the world from a different perspective and how their interactions can influence their world. It shows them how to be aware of the space they’re in and understand the concept of “cause and effect” as they see what happens when they interact with things.
- More appreciation for the environment. It can seem somewhat obvious, but children who spend more time enjoying the outdoors and interacting with it will care more about the environment and will have a bigger interest in taking care of it.
- Better relationships with their peers. Playing with friends outdoors is a better way for your child to connect with them as it requires more imagination and teamwork. Your child’s awareness of others and their feelings can increase, and children who play outdoors are less likely to bully other children.
- Developing their independence. Being outside has proven to help children develop their sense of independence. Although you or another adult is usually close by, your child will feel a sense of freedom when they’re at the park or in the yard that they don’t experience elsewhere.
Playing outside is an important part for your child’s development, and it’s a lot of fun for them, too. Encourage them to play outside, or even provide toys and activities that can only be done outdoors like team sports or going to the park. You can also participate in outdoor play with your child with a game of hide-and-seek or playing catch; you’ll be surprised how much you love it, too!1