In some ways, I can still clearly remember what it felt like to be kid.
Most of my happiest memories took place outside. Hunting tadpoles. Bare feet on the grass, playing catch. Building a leafy home under a fallen down tree.
Loads of the fun activities modern life has brought into our homes can benefit our kids – but nothing quite matches outdoor play. Exploring, building and creating, facing the elements and discovering nature: it’s almost like play takes on an extra dimension outside.
Here, in a nutshell, are my favorite reasons to send my kids outdoors today.
Inspiring creativity and adaptability
Kids in nature are not in control of their environment. They must learn to adapt, to come up with creative solutions to reach their goals. Outdoor play also often means they must often make their own toys, invent their own entertainment: the imagination’s the limit.
Building physical prowess
Natural play spaces challenge the whole body. Children get stronger and more flexible, improve gross motor skills and co-ordination.
Being in nature inspires a sense of awe, as over time children are exposed to its beauties, wonders and mysteries. Appreciating nature is the vital first step to caring for the environment and making a positive difference on environmental issues.
Reinforcing confidence and resilience
Tying back to children in nature being less in control – sometimes kids get hurt outside. Over time, kids get tougher. They learn to face not only discomfort, but also physical risks and challenges, and overcome. Their confidence in themselves and their capabilities grows.
Developing cognitive abilities
Playing outside is therapeutic for kids, and reduces stress. This, their new-found confidence and their budding creativity improves their focus and all-round ability in the classroom.
Being in nature boosts the immune system. Sunshine also provides your child’s body with the chance to manufacture essential Vitamin D.
Sharpening the senses
Nature is a riot of sensory delights – fragrances, distant or microscopic views, a plethora of varied textures, sounds to investigate, even fresh flavors if you do a bit of organic farming in your children’s garden. Nature play activates all the senses, and ultimately improves your child’s ability to use them.
Kids who can vent their vast energy resources outside have less energy to let loose when they come indoors. Facing outdoor challenges also builds patience and self-control.
Using the mind and body to maximum capacity during the day means that your child will fall asleep faster – and sleep more soundly – when they get to bed.
Creating strong bonds
Playing outside takes kids away from the many indoor activities that only one or two can share in, improving opportunities for social interaction. Children learn teamwork and make new friends as they play crowd games, or work together to overcome challenges.
Being outside together can strengthen your relationship with your kid, too. The best times together happen when you’re both thoroughly enjoying yourselves, and if you love nature or have a thriving inner child, you’ll welcome the chance to be outside, reveling in childhood games again. You can also build rapport by inviting them to help you garden. Get them a kid’s garden tool set, and spend time together planting new life into your flower or veg beds.
Written by Rifke Hill
About the Author
Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.