The Importance Of Outside Play
The importance of outside play and how to maximise your time outside with your children.
Getting out and about is important for many areas of development for children. Physical health and development, mental well being and social and emotional development are among some of the many benefits. Here I’ll highlight some of the key elements of outdoor play and why I feel they are important.
Appreciation of nature and the environment
Being outside can encourage your children to foster a love of nature and the environment. If you have a garden then planting seeds is a lovely activity. From talking about the seeds to planting them and watching them grow this process educates children about the life cycle of a plant and gives them responsibility to care for something. They can also take pride in what they have achieved while learning about the world we live in. These are all key milestones in the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Learning to understand risk
The outside environment generally offers more opportunity for children to take risks. Children need to be kept safe from hazards and harm but it is also important for them to explore and take risks. The Health and Safety Executive says, “The goal is not to eliminate risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits. No child will learn about risk if they are wrapped in cotton wool”.
I have generally found that children will naturally take more risks outside because the environment allows for them to do this. Of course they will need supervision and its likely you may need to step in to prevent them from harm but often this is such an incredible opportunity for them to grow and learn, take risks and learn from them, become stronger and braver, build resilience and work with others.
Developing gross motor skills
More and more children are starting school now without properly developed gross motor skills. These are an important building block to so many other key skills such as hand eye coordination and special awareness.
Developing social skills
Being outside is where I have seen some of the most imaginative role play among children. Younger children tend to play parallel to one another but from the age of around 3 children begin to play cooperatively. This type of play with their peers is when children begin to develop an understanding of others feelings and understand the impact of their actions to other. This is so crucial to a child’s developing social skills and something that is easy as adults for us to forget what a huge skill this is for children to learn.
When I notice children in my care having a disagreement over something my first reaction (unless obviously one is at harm) is to stand back and observe them. I do this to see whether they can resolve the situation amicably themselves and it’s a really lovely moment when you notice that they can. When I do step in I get to their level and talk to them gently about what has happened and how they think they have made one another feel. I then ask them how they think we can solve the problem so that everyone is happy. Initially they may need a little help with suggestions and guidance but soon enough they will be problem solving themselves and this should be really rewarded! What an amazing achievement! By stepping in gently and teaching them the skills to resolve difficulties you are enabling them to develop a key skill. It takes time and patience but it will pay off. I know all to well as a parent that when your children are arguing and you’re inevitably doing 50 other things, the easiest thing to do is tell them to stop arguing and play separately but try the above technique, ask them the big question “how can we solve this?” (You won’t usually get the solution straight away from them and I know from my own strong willed little one that sometimes they will answer with something that makes you take a deep breath!! But keep calm, be that role model that you are and encourage kindness REWARD THE KINDNESS! And PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE! I cannot emphasise enough the importance of positive reinforcement!)
We all know how important Vitamin D is for our children’s development as well as enabling their bodies to absorb calcium and build strong bones and helping them to heal after injury. Although it is recommended that everybody take a supplement during autumn and winter, the sunshine vitamin is especially important for children’s health and development.
Dens, potions, mud pies the list is endless! Stepping outside can really open up a child’s imagination and creativity.
“Play is a primary way that children learn about themselves and the world around them,” says Sir Ken Robinson, a leading expert in education, creativity and human development. “The failure to play is now a critical issue and it calls for concerted action for change,” he warns.
Being creative is an important cognitive process for children where ideas are developed and can come to life. I have to admit that I am one of those crazy people that loves messy play! Once you get your head around it understand the benefits to our children’s development it does help you to relax and almost embrace it! Being outside makes messy play a lot easier too!
All of the products on the Meli & Ro website are products that I have used with children and love. As I love outside play so much this range is one that I promise to always keep working on and developing to bring you the best products.
For little ones independent play doesn’t mean no supervision. It means that they can play independently away from you. So long as children are safe they should be left to sort out their own games and figure out ways to do things, have freedom and keep themselves occupied. Independence will not develop unless children are allowed to do things for themselves.
Children need our attention and will let us know when and how they need it. It is important they get it so ensure they do during mealtimes, bath times etc, make time to play with them and engage in activities with them that they are interested in, read with them, talk to them and be present but don’t feel guilty about letting them play independently.
Children may say they are bored but I often find that “I’m bored” is shortly followed by something pretty creative. Children may use this phrase without actually meaning it and provided they have the right environment and resources they wont be bored for very long. This time opens up the opportunity for children to become creative thinkers and adapt to change.
Being outside offers a magnitude of opportunities to exercise and teach our children about the importance of a healthy balanced lifestyle. As we all know exercise has many health benefits from building a stronger heart, bones and healthier muscles, improving concentration, self esteem and academic scores to lowering stress and encouraging a better nights sleep.