If you asked kids 30 years ago where they spent the majority of their time, you'd likely hear a lot about the outdoors. Asking the same question today often results in very different answers. You might hear about video games or computer time with a surprising lack of fresh air.
While technology isn't all bad, medical professionals are in universal agreement that outdoor time is most important for children of all ages.
What are the benefits of outdoor play?
From building an appreciation of nature to working on your comprehension skills, outdoor play has invaluable benefits for growing kids.
1. A good dose of Vitamin D
As long as you're mindful of being sun-smart, contact with the natural elements is safe and something everybody needs. Vitamin D plays a big role in things such as bone development, keeping our immune system healthy, promoting good sleep and improving our moods, according to the Harvard Medical School blog. Outdoor play provides kids with the sunshine they need and the adventure they crave!
When you're surrounded by nature, anything can play into your make-believe scenarios.
2. A window into imaginative play
Speaking of adventure, playing outside is a great way to encourage imaginative play. When you're surrounded by nature, anything can play into your make-believe scenarios. The base of the tree can be your headquarters, a fallen twig can be your wand – the sky really is the limit. This kind of play is important as it helps with creativity and social skills!
3. An introduction to executive functions
Executive functions refer to the set of skills that help us plan, discuss, problem-solve and multi-task, according to the Harvard Medical School blog. All of these actions play a big role in our future successes. Unstructured time gives children the space they need to learn these skills. When given the opportunity to figure things out solo, or make up new games, kids will be forced to practice decision-making, planning and a whole range of other functions.
4. An appreciation of nature
As our world continues to grow, there seems to be less and less space for nature. When you can't interact with nature, you can't learn to appreciate it. Children need to be exposed to the outdoors, whether it's as mundane as digging in the dirt and climbing trees, or as awe-inspiring as seeing animals in their natural habitat. The more outdoor play children get, the bigger their appreciation for the natural world will get.
5. A self-awareness through physical play
Outdoor play is a great way for kids to explore their physical abilities. From running and jumping to climbing and catching, playing outside lets you explore all these motions. As a result, outdoor play is a great way to improve self-awareness. These lessons create a sense of independence in any child.
How can playgrounds encourage outdoor play?
In an increasingly concrete world, playgrounds are often the answer to getting kids outdoors and active. Nature-inspired play equipment can help turn otherwise grey and lifeless areas into exciting play spaces. For already nature-rich places this kind of equipment can help enhance the outdoor surrounding and encourage kids to get out and play!
By definition, a natural playground is usually a small piece of nature or sometimes replicated nature which contains a variety of different mini-environments.
There are often separate areas appropriate for active play, creative play, and quiet time. Each space allows children to run and play like normal but often has the addition of natural and prefabricated materials which are movable and can be manipulated.
Most playgrounds inspired by nature also contain some type of water, such as a fountain or stream. Sandy or rocky areas are often found beside these water installations. Varied terrain or hills are sometimes included to enhance a range of movement.
Working with Playrope
Sometimes it's the simple things that spark the most joy. Playing in nature is as simple as it gets. Children can benefit from enjoying the elements that surround them while fostering a deep appreciation for the great outdoors.
Playrope can help facilitate this love of nature. Our playgrounds create a great starting point for outdoor play. Whether it's a nature-inspired playground or a sensory-driven design, we can help you build a play space that promotes the power of getting outside.
Keen to learn more? Reach out to our team today.