04 Sep Outdoor Play
There’s a big, wide world full of wonder and space to move that starts just outside your door! Being outside is fun for children, but it is also actually incredibly important for their health and physical development. Let’s take a look at why…
Outdoor play gives children space to move. Large gross motor movements like running, jumping, climbing, throwing and kicking are all more likely to take place outside than within the home because there is room to do it! These types of activities are a great form of exercise for your child and will help instil in them some healthy habits for life. Outdoor play and these types of gross motor activities will help strengthen your child’s core muscles and help to balance out the effects of time spent sitting down or slouching whilst indoors.
There’s so much to touch and feel! Exploring the world through the hands and fingertips is important for your child’s neural development, and outdoors is a beautiful place to expose your child to a range of textures and sensations. Sand, grass, leaves, mud, rocks, puddles and flower petals – each one looks and feels different and will encourage your child’s sense of curiosity and wonder. For younger babies this can be encouraged through tummy time on some new and exciting surfaces like grass or sand, or perhaps they might enjoy laying on a blanket and holding a leaf or a flower. Always be mindful to watch what they are playing with as babies will try to explore new objects by putting them in their mouth. Safety at all times is key! For older children, exploring texture and sensation can be encouraged by building sand castles, digging holes in the veggie patch for planting, picking up shells, and collecting crunchy autumn leaves into a pile to play with. These activities can be coupled with imaginative play and adventures to get your child’s creative mind working.
Time spent outdoors may help prevent nearsightedness (myopia) in children. There have been some studies indicating that for children who already had myopia, time spent outdoors appeared to be protective and slow the progression of the condition. For children without nearsightedness, these same studies showed that children who spent more time outdoors were less likely to develop the condition that those who didn’t. There’s still a lot of room for more evidence to emerge on this issue but in a world where people are increasingly attached to their screens and hand held devices, getting some daylight and allowing your child’s vision to focus on things far off in the distance seems like a fabulous way to balance these activities out.
Outdoor play encourages social interaction. Getting down to the local playground can be a great, low cost way for your child to interact with other kids. Negotiating turn taking on equipment, coming up with rules for creative games, and getting involved with ball sports and running races – all of these activities require children to build their confidence and social skills to work out how to play together. The freedom to move, coupled with the opportunities for climbing and ball sports makes outdoor play a great opportunity for your child to expand their social skills.
Being outside boosts Vitamin D! In Australia we need to be particularly sun smart to protect ourselves and our children from skin cancer, so always remember your hat and your sunscreen if you’re going to be outdoors during the hotter parts of summer or for extended periods of time. But don’t shy away from letting your kids get a bit of sunshine on their skin, it’s how our bodies synthesise vitamin D! Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and strong bones, and low levels can lead to ill health. Sunshine is also known to be beneficial for mood so why not head outside for a play in the sun with your child today!