The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Young Children

Our increasingly busy modern lives are usually to blame for the fact that children seem to spend less time playing outdoors. Parents have fewer opportunities to take their children to the playground and to provide the constant supervision that is deemed necessary in the world today. There is also an outrageous amount of competition from media and gaming devices that were simply not available as playthings until more recent years. But apart from freedom and fresh air, outdoor activities have many benefits for young children and their families.

Why is outdoor play important?

Pre-schoolers need space to practice their rapidly developing physical skills and spatial awareness. Jumping, skipping, running, spinning, and kicking or throwing a ball, are all important motor skills. Along with everything else we learn, we need to be able to practice and the outdoors provides our children with enough space to burn off excess energy, and calories too.

Our bodies and minds also benefit greatly from a safe and healthy level of exposure to sunshine. Things such as vitamin D, certain brain functions and sleep-wake cycles are all connected to natural light exposure.

Outdoor learning is fun

When playing outside, young children are far more likely to participate in group games and interact with others, which will boost their emotional and social development. They also tend to be far more inventive, making up their own games and rules, learning boundaries and respect.

Equipment in the playpark often involves sharing, cooperation and plenty of patience, while the little ones wait for their turn. While they are busy having fun in the park, young children are also learning vital life-skills without even realising it.

A treat for the senses

As adults, some of our fondest memories are often associated with outdoor activities. This is understandable when you think of all the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and textures we can experience in the natural world. I can even remember ‘tasting’ nature the first time a snowflake landed on my tongue. The perception that young children can develop outdoors is far superior to the sights and sounds provided by any flat screen.

Messy play is also very important for many of the same reasons and where better to let your child make a mess than in the great outdoors?

Some outdoor/garden activities to try with your little learner

  • Plant some seasonal seeds or bulbs
  • Teddy bears have a picnic
  • Chalk drawings or hopscotch on bricks/slabs
  • Water balloons – with food dye for the brave!
  • Nature trail and insect hunt (maybe with a magnifying glass)
  • Avoid the sprinkler dash, can you time it just right?
  • Hunt for treasure, treats or homemade ‘fossils’
  • Make a cardboard bird table and feed the birds
  • Take the dog for a walk with his favourite toy
  • Make a nature scrapbook with leaves and flowers

Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning & Childcare Centres in NSW actively encourage outdoor play. The centres all include water play features, shade sails, and sandpits, the majority also boast in-ground trampolines and fixed climbing equipment. So enrol now and your youngster can let off some steam charging around with us!