I used to love taking my kids to the park when they were young and watching them run off to chase our dogs, jump, hide, shout, whistle, climb and explore the natural world.
Wrapped up warm with jumpers and wellies they always arrived back home with rosy cheeks, a healthy glow and a big smile.
Playgrounds are places where children’s play can take off and flourish.
Purpose of outdoor play
I think that there are two fundamental reasons why outdoor play is critical for young children.
Firstly, children develop their fine and gross motor gross skills through playing outside, as well as their dexterity and balance, all through exploring and risk-taking and having fun in the fresh air.
Secondly, children of today are growing up with so much technology, excessive TV and computer use that playing outside is really important and mustn’t be sidelined or lost, because it develops a child’s imagination, their physical stamina as well as keeping them fit.
Enjoyment of the outdoors
Ask any adult about what they loved to play as a child and you will bring back happy memories of making mud pies, jumping in puddles or climbing up trees.
Outdoor play is one of the things that characterises childhood.
Children need opportunities to explore, experiment, manipulate, explore, change, marvel, discover, practice, dam up, push their limits, yell, sing, and create.
Learning about the world
Young children learn lots of things about the world from playing outside:
How snow sounds when you pad about on it when it has first fallen.
How ice sounds when you crunch over it.
How autumn leaves feel and sound when you run through them on a sunny October day.
They learn to explore the natural world by trying to stand sticks in sand.
They learn how plants grow.
How mud feels.
How it feels to run down a hill.
How fast they can go on their bike with the wind blowing in their face.
Learning outside is fun !
And through playing kids are learning about maths, science, ecology, gardening, nature, birds, mini beasts as well as the feel of the seasons, local weather and how to entertain and occupy themselves easily and enjoyably.
Learning about self and the environment
To learn about their own physical and emotional capabilities, children must push their limits.
How high can I swing?
Do I dare to go down this big slide?
How high can I climb I wonder?
I wonder if I can go down the slide headfirst?
To learn about the physical world, the child must experiment with the physical world.
Letting of steam
As a former Deputy Head and class teacher for 22 years I found kids needed to “let off some steam” regularly from the sitting and listening mode of a classroom and going outside to play was a very important part of helping them concentrate and learn both in and out of the classroom.
Also surveys have shown that children who learn to enjoy the outdoors have a much higher likelihood of becoming adults who enjoy hiking, gardening, jogging, bicycling, golf, tennis or other outdoor activities.
Also I think playing and being active plays an important role in keeping children from obesity.
Allowing children to be children
So if you are a stressed out, tired and tense adult – get yourself and your kids down to the park to play this weekend! Join in with the running, jumping, climbing, swinging, racing, yelling, rolling, hiding, and making a big mess – let your BIG KID come out – you’ll laugh, release tension, have fun, get some exercise and relax !
You’ll also build some memories that will last all your lifetimes!
Isn’t what childhood is all about?
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About the author
Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.
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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
T: + 44 1342 833355 M: 07740 622769
Surrey RH7 6LF