Outdoor play is more important than ever for children, especially now when there are still such high restrictions in place to help stop the spread of coronavirus – but did you know it’s actually paramount for their physical and mental wellbeing? While playgrounds were once simply seen as a place for young ones to let off steam, studies are now showing us that outdoor play contributes hugely to their health and wellbeing. And here’s how..
Offers A Break From Strict Schedules
As every adult knows, spending time outdoors in the fresh air is a great way to clear the mind and give your tired brain a break. It should come as no surprise either that children need just as much downtime as we do, which makes outdoor play even more vital at such a young age. Think of it as time away from school, busy schedules and what can often be, demanding routines on young minds.
Relieves Stress & Anxiety
It’s believed that spending time outside can help relieve stress and anxiety as it increases endorphins while reducing the levels of the hormone cortisol in the brain. Studies have even suggested that something as little as five minutes of exercise a day can help improve self-esteem in young people too. Nursery settings with an adequate outdoor play area can provide this type of play with ease and for some, are often the main source of outdoor play making it all the more vital that this time outside is provided.
Allows For Vitamin D Top Ups
Here in the UK, regardless of whether lockdown is in effect or not, we tend to spend more time indoors during the winter months. Children (and adults) that do this, can find they suffer from a lack of direct sunlight, which in turn, can lead to the body not producing enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D releases serotonin which helps our bodies regulate emotions and moods. Studies have linked higher levels of serotonin to more positive emotions between children and their family members. A lack of Vitamin D could therefore negatively impact on a child’s mental health quite easily.
Helps Develop Coordination & Strength
Whether children are running free across a field or utilising specially made early years outdoor play equipment, physical exercise in the fresh air can help children not only develop their strength and fitness but will also help them develop their coordination as well as their fine and gross motor skills. Their physical development will always benefit when in the great outdoors and children are required to take in their surroundings, considering un-level ground surfaces, climbing frames and other obstacles to tackle.
Develops Social Skills
Imagine the scene of an empty playground. It’s unlikely that children would interact as much as they do when there is adequate playground equipment. Children who have access to playground equipment, with particular social and inviting settings, will often utilise them far more cooperatively. From climbing frames to outdoor kitchens and even sandboxes and picnic benches; all of these pieces of equipment (and so much more) allow for children to play alongside their peers in an easy-going atmosphere. There’s no pressure to interact immediately. Instead, it allows children to socialise at a level that suits them. It’s often found that children who socialise upon playground equipment in this way see a boost in their own confidence also.
Boost Creativity & Exercise Their Imagination
Playgrounds with equipment such as water trays, sandpits and sensory gardens, often find themselves with children whose minds wander. Their creativity is allowed to flow with their focus being solely on the play and the different sights, sounds and textures in front of them. Role play becomes very prominent in these particular settings, allowing children to be at their most creative, exploring their imagination to the fullest. Once again, allowing a child to immerse themselves in imaginative play can provide escapism from routines and school discipline, allowing them to develop their mental capacity through play.
Improves Their Ability To Learn
Learning is a lifelong process. It’s something that even as adults, we continue to do. While children may find themselves in a predominantly classroom-based setting for learning, that doesn’t mean they stop learning outside of that setting. Just like adults, children continue to learn and playing is one of the best ways for them to do that. Playing allows them to learn without even realising it, whether it’s learning more about their own bodies and balance or learning how to interact with other children; play can even help them learn anything from numbers to words, facts about the environment and so much more.
Outdoor Play Is Imperative
Outdoor play isn’t just a nice to have. It’s absolutely imperative to help children develop both physically and mentally in an environment that’s not only enjoyable but encouraging of it. Having the right layout and the correct playground equipment is just as important and something to strive for. Watch your children learn and grow in ways that can only be achieved through outdoor play.