Why is Outdoor Play so Important?
In our generation and past generations, children benefited from extended amounts of outdoor play.
‘I remember days when we would ride our bikes through the streets, stomp through muddy puddles and cheekily climb trees, picking apples from the wild orchards. Falling and crying was all part of the experience and we survived and those risks created the adventurer’s in us’.
As adults, we recognize that these experiences helped shaped many aspects of our lives – Exploring the outdoor adventurers in us.
In recent years, we have seen a shift in children’s use and access to the outdoors. A growing interest in media equipment, such as tablets, televisions and video games has significantly contributed to the rise of a society where more and more children are leading sedentary lives and we have a growing generation of sofa children!
Despite this cultural shift, outdoor play remains essential to children’s development and well-being. Admittedly, Abu Dhabi doesn’t experience the 4 seasons like the other countries, but outdoor play in the milder months is essential and such an important part of childhood. The benefits of learning outside the classroom are endless. The outdoors allows us to experience a sense of freedom, we have the ability to explore the living environment, which does wonders for a child’s development, both physically and mentally. There cognitive thinking skills are tested to the MAX!
The importance of outside play in the Early Years cannot be underestimated and below are just some of the many benefits it offers to children:
Encourages an Active Lifestyle
Children who play outdoors are much more likely to continue to enjoy outdoor activities, such as walking, jogging and cycling as they get older. Keeping in mind all the gadgets and technology available, outdoor play is an important factor in establishing an active and healthy lifestyle. Moreover, physical skills are also an important part for children’s growth, particularly physical coordination and the movement of the body. Playing outdoors increases children’s ability to balance, jump, climb, throw, run, swing and so much more.
Appreciation of the Natural World and Environment
Learning in an outdoor setting allows children to learn about the natural elements surrounding us and helps them to gain and ‘Understanding of the World’ we live in. Understanding the weather, animals, habitats, sand and trees is so important for children and it is all these experiences that allow children to have an appreciation of the world around them.
Develops Social Skills
Outdoor play provides children with the opportunity to develop their social skills as they interact, negotiate and collaborate with their peers. It is also a wonderful opportunity for shy and introverted children, where the they may feel intimidated in a small classroom setting but can explore the outdoor with freedom. Most outdoor learning is child-led and giving children outdoor learning experiences provides them with a chance to talk about what they have done with their friends, teachers and parents.
Being outdoors gives children a sense of freedom to make self-led discoveries. They can develop their own ideas and create games and activities without feeling like they are being directly managed. It also gives children the opportunity to begin to understand what they are truly capable of doing by themselves and helps them develop a ‘can do’ attitude.
Being outdoors provides children with opportunities to experience risk-taking. They have the chance to part in tasks on a bigger scale and complete them in ways they may not be able to do while being indoors. They also learn the importance of taking calculated decisions such a…
‘Should I jump off this log?’
‘Can I climb that high on this tree?’
These experiences heavily impact their childhood and plays a role in their growth. Offering children safe spaces is a great way to provide opportunities to experience the world around them helping them to become confident spacially aware independent individuals.