What can the outdoors offer?
There are lots of benefits for young children when they can spend as much time as possible playing outside in interesting outdoor environments. Young children learn through the type of place or environment they are in.
When they are outside, children have the freedom to shout and make noise, the space to be more expansive in their physical movements, which sparks their imaginations, and more places to hide and explore. Children can also be messier outdoors, which encourages them to be more creative and to try things out and experiment.
Richard Louv, author of 8 books about the connections between family, nature and the community, says that "children who play outside are less likely to get sick, to be stressed or become aggressive and are more adaptable to life's unpredictable turns".
Children get lots of physical exercise outside through activities like running, climbing, digging and swinging. Spending lots of time getting physical exercise outdoors when they are young helps them to develop positive lifestyle habits that are good for their health generally, and also helps to prevent obesity. Children also get lots of vitamin D from sunlight, which is vital for strong bones and teeth and a healthy immune system.
Research shows that movement and thinking skills are powerfully connected. Movement and activity encourages brain growth and improves children's attention and their memory.
"The more you keep children sitting, the less attentive they become"
Dr Tony Pelligrini, American Education Researcher
Children's wellbeing and their ability to understand as well as to control their feelings and emotions also increase from being outdoors as they relax and feel calm. Free play has been shown to help children to heal from stress and trauma in the same way as being able to cry does.
Outdoor play can involve
- Pretend play
- Being messy
- Being noisy
- Trying out new things
- Fun and enjoyment
- Building and constructing
- Lifting, carrying and pouring
- Running and jumping
- Getting dirty or wet
- Digging and planting
- Dealing with uneven surface and heights