What comes to mind when you think of playing outdoors? Do you remember the joy and excitement you felt as you explored the playground at recess? Do you fondly recall the times you spent meeting new friends and bonding with family? Not only does outdoor play promote great memories like these, but playing outside is also essential for proper child development.
We believe the importance of outdoor play and nature in every aspect of child development is too critical to be overlooked. Outdoor play helps young kids stay active, release emotions and pent-up energy, develop balance and fine motor skills, boost cognitive and social skills and so much more.
Read the full article or skip to a specific section:
- The Importance of Outdoor Play in Early Childhood
- Tips to Get Young Children Excited About Playing Outdoors
- Keep Yourself Upbeat and Enthusiastic
- Plan Activities That Guarantee Action
- Encourage Family Time
- Encourage Free Play
- Build Friendships
- Teach, But Don’t Lecture
- Limit Access to Electronics
- Take Baby Steps
- Outdoor Activities for Young Children
The Importance of Outdoor Play in Early Childhood
Outdoor play is extremely beneficial to growing kids. Playing outside allows young kids to develop skills that are essential as they get older and allows them to explore creativity. Outdoor play helps keep kids healthy and allows them to learn and interact with others.
Promotes Physical Health
The obesity rate among all age groups continues to grow, making outdoor play even more crucial. Doctors begin recommending outdoor play from the moment a baby is born because an early start helps kids build healthy habits. Toddlers, for instance, should have at least an hour of play each day to help reduce the risk of obesity and other health-related issues.
As they play, kids develop motor skills, physical coordination and get valuable exercise for their growing bodies. Playing outside can even help kids sleep better at night, which is important to child development.
Provides New Learning Opportunities
Young kids learn from everything. Exploring new things and pushing their boundaries help kids learn about their surroundings. Outdoor spaces provide the perfect opportunity for new learning experiences. Something as simple as walking to the park can expose young kids to new discoveries and open doors to curiosity. While learning about the world through books is a good start, exposing young kids to nature and the way the world works gives them a better understanding of everything around them.
Builds a Foundation for Social Interaction
Outdoor play is a great opportunity for kids to socialize with others in an unstructured setting. They’ll learn how to play with others, take turns and share, follow the rules of a game and build friendships with peers and relationships with adults. Whether they play outside with kids from daycare or new friends from a community playground, socializing at a young age teaches kids valuable skills for the future.
Tips to Get Young Children Excited About Playing Outdoors
Before young ones can enjoy all those fantastic benefits, you’ll first need to get them excited to go outside. Follow these eight tips on how to encourage a child to play outside, and you’ll soon be on your way to having exciting outdoor adventures with your toddlers and young children.
Keep Yourself Upbeat and Enthusiastic
You don’t have to be a fitness guru or outdoor enthusiast to get young children interested in outdoor play — but you do need to show a bit of spirit. If you seem excited to spend time doing outdoor activities, your enthusiasm will rub off and make little ones more excited to be outside, too.
Lead by example and channel your inner child during playtime, encouraging kids with a sense of wonder and excitement. Point out everything as if it’s the first time you’ve seen it, and don’t be afraid to add some extra pep to your voice as you lead outdoor activities.
Plan Activities That Guarantee Action
Toddlers love to move, so a sedentary activity with little action likely won’t hold their interest for too long. Luckily, plenty of activities like flying kites or playing on a playground give kids the chance to get moving while enjoying the outdoors.
You can even transform a simple yard or sports field into a magical outdoor adventure. Take dress-up clothes outside for a backyard fashion show, or go on a scavenger hunt around the area. The more creative and varied your activities are, the more kids will want to get out and enjoy them.
Encourage Family Time
Today’s families are busier than ever, but family time is far too valuable to miss out on. Experts agree that quality family experiences nurture positive behavior and a healthy lifestyle in kids and can lead to meaningful memories.
Encourage your family to get out together as much as possible on weekends or some other regular schedule, and make a list of activities you can do to make their outings fun and memorable.
Encourage Free Play
While pre-planned activities are a great way to keep kids occupied, kids are kids. Young children have short attention spans and often create their own little adventures along the way. Don’t discourage this unstructured fun — supervised free play is essential in boosting kids’ creativity, communication, cognitive and mobility skills.
The best thing you can do to encourage free play is to leave children uninterrupted — although supervised — as they play on the playground with their friends or when they get sidetracked sneaking up on butterflies while waiting for a fish to bite.
Kids naturally inspire each other, and children will likely want to spend more time outdoors if they have friends their age to enjoy it with. Encourage children to play together through structured outdoor group activities, and promote a healthy balance between alone time and time spent in cooperative play.
While it may take a little extra effort to plan and supervise larger groups of kids, the joy and confidence children gain from exploring the world with other kids their age are worth developing.
Teach, But Don’t Lecture
The outdoors offers so many wonderful teaching moments, but young kids can quickly shut down if you turn these moments into lectures. Practice the art of “show, don’t tell” — kids can learn a lot about behavioral and outdoor skills just by watching you, even if you’re not aware they’re watching.
Encourage young ones to learn without lecturing by asking questions like “What do you think?” and trying to remain at eye level when talking to them. This makes it seem less like you’re giving orders and helps you include kids in your activities.
Limit Access to Electronics
Children under 5 years old have an innate tendency to move as long as they’re not distracted by their devices. TV, online games and other electronics may be OK in moderation. But if kids are used to staring at a screen throughout the day, it may be hard to pry it away from them to go outdoors!
Try to avoid screen time during outdoor play, or make a schedule that gives little ones a certain amount of screen time for every hour spent outdoors. Without the distraction of their devices, kids will be much more likely to get moving.
Take Baby Steps
Kids aren’t going to be outdoor experts in one day, and that’s OK! Take your time and patiently encourage children to want to be outside by starting out small. Start out with a walk in the park or a trip to a local playground, then work your way up to bigger outdoor adventures with toddlers and young children as they explore the outdoors.
Outdoor Activities for Young Children
Now that you know how to get young kids excited about playing outside, consider what activities will be both beneficial and occupying for their young minds and bodies. Next time you take little ones outside, try these activities:
- Create chalk roads: Using chalk, draw shapes of various sizes and lines that are straight and curvy. Have the kids jump from shape to shape and walk on the lines without falling. Ask them to do it while running and skipping, too, so this fun game helps them practice motor skills.
- Plan a nature scavenger hunt: Create a list of items in your backyard or local park. This list can be written or use pictures, as well, if you’re playing outside with toddlers. Give the kids baggies and accompany them as they search for items on the list. Use this time to help them discover new things.
- Plant seeds: This activity can be done in a garden or using small cups or pots. Allow the kids to help you dig in the soil or fill pots, plant the seeds and water them. Teach them that if they’re patient, plants will grow where the seeds were planted.
- Play on a playground: Playgrounds offer kids the ability to play in an unstructured environment while remaining under your watchful eye. This activity allows young kids to explore on their own and be creative with their play.
Playworld Has All the Early Childhood Playground Equipment Your Community Needs
Playground equipment designed specifically for early childhood is a great way to get young kids up and active, but it’s a need that often goes unmet. Playworld is focused on providing every child with the opportunity to enjoy age-appropriate play with an array of outdoor playground equipment for toddlers and young kids to enjoy.
Since 1971, we’ve served local communities, schools and daycare centers, places of worship and other organizations as a trusted manufacturer of affordable, innovative equipment loved by children and parents alike. If you’re ready to get kids excited to play outdoors, contact a play expert today!