Playing outside or outdoor play is a crucial aspect of childhood. It is fun to see young kids discover their surroundings and the natural world around them. They are incredibly fascinated to learn about what’s around them and become excited when they discover something new. Children require enough time to play uninhibitedly despite having busy schedules with school, homework, sports, and extracurricular activities. Having said that, playgrounds seem to be the ideal setting for enjoyable and unstructured playtime activities.
Playgrounds are areas where kids are able to play unapologetically and thrive. A decent outdoor playground should be big enough for kids to observe and enjoy the captivating natural surroundings. It must be created in a way that allows children to shout, climb, run about, jump, fly kites, throw a frisbee, and even make a mess while playing. Since children learn through play, experimentation, and exploration, having quality playgrounds is essential for kids’ overall development.
However, due to the rapid growth and development of technology in recent years, children have transitioned from playing outside to remaining cooped up at home with video games and virtual reality headsets. The average amount of time that children spend each day looking at their smartphones, computers/laptops, tablets, and television is thought to be over six hours. Their health and quality of life have thus suffered substantially as a result of this transformation and digital advancement.
Unquestionably, the remarkable benefits of constantly advancing technology and access to digital information are a huge blessing. Though, it is equally clear that this is a privilege that must be used wisely. The majority of parents are aware of the problem—the shift from outside play to indoor computer games—and work to motivate their children to be more physically active all day long.
Every parent wants their children to grow up to be happy, healthy, successful people with a strong sense of compassion, confidence, and autonomy. The easiest approach for instilling these values in children early on is to encourage them to go outdoors. Children who are encouraged to spend more time outside in the fresh air and away from these electronic devices have better physical health and their emotional and intellectual abilities are also strengthened.
Importance of Outdoor Play and Nature-Based Learning
In the absence of digital screens, children can simply enjoy and experience the innocent delights of childhood such as singing, skipping, jumping, and much more. They can explore their emotional, social, and, most crucially, physical prowess in new and interesting ways when they are playing outside. Consequently, they will gain a great deal of knowledge of the natural environment and learn more about the people, other kids/peers, and themselves. Here’s a rundown of the reasons why young children should play more outside –
- Physical Health
It is quite unlikely that children who spend more time playing outside would have any health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, hypertension, etc. Children can improve their physical strength and stamina by engaging in activities such as running, skipping, climbing, cycling, etc. Furthermore, fostering an interest in these physical pursuits in children from an early age helps them establish a good attitude toward the value of bodily fitness and motivates them to maintain an active lifestyle throughout their lives.
Children who spend quality time outside obtain a sufficient amount of Vitamin D as the body produces it when exposed to sunlight. Possessing appropriate levels of Vitamin D boosts the immune system, makes the bones strong, and improves the body’s ability to prevent diseases.
- Motor Skills
Children who spend most of their time indoors are likely to possess less refined motor abilities than kids who play outside. Kids naturally acquire necessary motor skills related to fitness such as agility, coordination, balance, speed, and dexterity through outdoor activities. Children who spend more time playing outdoors are able to move their bodies in ways that test their bones, muscles, and overall physical endurance. The outdoor environment encourages kids to learn and acquire these skills and also develop new skills through trial and error.
Developing early motor abilities, for instance, through swings or slides is a great idea. Swings help children to sit, hold on and flow with the movement which requires muscle movement. On the other hand, slides are also a fun way to develop body strength. A child must maintain an upright posture when sliding down a slide while sitting. They have to engage their core to maintain their balance.
- Builds Confidence
Children are exposed to different settings as they play games and engage in outdoor activities in a naturalistic environment. It encourages kids to try new things and gradually take little, healthy risks. They make an attempt to push their limitations and hone their abilities when given the chance to learn something new or explore something new and unknown. As kids become more confident in their skills and capabilities, they feel a deep sense of freedom, self-reliance, and self-awareness.
- Sensory Stimulation
Children naturally use all five of their senses while playing outside, which improves their ability to comprehend sensory perception. For instance, when toddlers are outside, they can become more familiar with a range of sensory experiences, such as the cool breeze, the dry leaves they touch, the snow they play in, the dawn and sunset, the fragrance of moist soil after a rain, and many more.
- Social Interaction
Children can connect and interact more freely when they meet and play with other kids in an open, natural environment such as playgrounds, parks, and gardens. They have the chance to learn from one another and share their knowledge, creative ideas, and discoveries through these interactions. If they aren’t given enough chances to play outside with various groups of kids, they won’t acquire or understand fundamental social behavioral skills.
- Value of Diversity
It is quite beneficial for children when they are exposed to individuals from different backgrounds and cultures, points of view, and personalities. When a parent brings their kid to a park or playground, the child has the opportunity to interact and play with different groups of children. They get the chance to socialize and build relationships with new children and people in a natural setting, which teaches them to respect and value diversity.
- Appreciating the Environment
Young children are society’s little explorers who are always curious and amazed by everything around them. Through their own unique experiences, children develop a love of nature. All through their childhood, kids do things like listening to birds, catching fireflies or butterflies, chasing chickens, climbing trees to pluck a fruit, planting flowers, watching the sunset and sunrise, etc., and it is only through these experiences they learn to appreciate and value their surroundings. These wonderful memories inspire children to grow into more considerate and responsible adults who deeply value every natural and living thing in the world and strive to protect and preserve the environment.
- Linguistic Development
Children can easily absorb new information. It is believed that kids can learn and retain knowledge even when they are in an unconscious state of mind, and surprisingly, they won’t even know it. Natural settings can be used as a great educational approach to help children learn the language and improve their linguistic skills. Here are a few examples of exercises that parents or tutors can carry out in the natural environment that will aid children in practicing almost any topic of language –
(a) Taking children for a visit to the botanical garden or zoo. Instructing them to describe their experiences and discoveries with others or they could write a brief essay illustrating their observations throughout the visit.
(b) Describing locations in an elaborate manner. For instance, children can discuss their dream town. Have them ask one another questions such as “What kind of shops will the town have?”, “Are there any parks?”, “Describe how your house looks from the outside?”, “Are there any trees or street lamps near your house?”, and so on.
(c) Learning the concept of comparison through trees, leaves, flowers, etc. Children can determine which trees are tall and which ones are short, big insects and small insects, and so on. Comparison between fruits based on their taste – sour, sweet, salty, or their shapes is also a fun activity.
Colors, textures, traffic and road directions, and some more topics are easily comprehensible when taught through natural examples. This helps children become more expressive and enhances their ability to properly articulate their thoughts and ideas while also allowing them to expand their knowledge in terms of vocabulary, creativity, and imagination.
In a nutshell, it is logical to say that playing outside in natural surroundings is what defines a special and memorable childhood. Because of the advancement of technology, the majority of children spend a great deal of time indoors. However, teachers and parents must play a proactive role to urge kids to put down their electronic gadgets and head outside to play.