UK Speak

Why Outdoor Play Creates Happier, Healthier Kids

Are you finding it harder and harder to encourage your children to play outside? With the surge in popularity of video games and tablet devices, it can take far more effort to prise them away from their electronic obsessions these days.

But listen up, parents. It is worth making the effort and putting up with all the moans and groans you encounter when you pull the plug on their digital devices. Why? Because when you get your children to move their play and entertainment outside, good things happen.

Computer confusion

So do we have to bin all the computers and video games?

No. That’s too drastic and most parents would be facing a mutiny if they were to do that. It is important to note that computer games aren’t all bad, there are some real benefits to be taken from console play. For improving hand eye coordination, strategy building, number skills and tactical strengths, sports computer games can be a real positive. Electronic games that are stimulating, creative and mentally challenging can have real educational value. And when parents and children play games consoles together, there is improved bonding. Many kids love switching the tables on their parents and taking on the teacher role as they show them how to play their favourite games. However, balance is the watchword. Time spent on the computer must be shared with other outdoor pursuits so that your child gets enough fresh air, variety and social contact in their life.

The feeling of freedom

When your children play outside they are learning a whole different set of skills. Moving about physically, learning to run, leap and jump about allows them to freely develop their motor skills. The space and room to run about outside is so liberating for young children, especially, it is fun to watch how their behaviour changes as they step outside. Physical activities such as throwing, catching and kicking balls, pulling carts or pushing swings are all key manipulative skills that outdoor play encourages.

From a health point of view, childhood issues such as obesity can be positively influenced by an increase in outdoor play as the elevated level of physical activity burns more calories. Children that don’t get enough exercise will be prone to carrying extra weight, sluggish and at an increased risk of developing hypertension and arteriosclerosis in later life.

Still don’t want to show them the door?

How about giving them their daily quota of natural daylight? The pineal gland in the brain is stimulated by light and this is important because it is the part of the brain that deals with the immune system, regulates body clock and even makes us feel happy. That’s right, a daily blast of the outdoors can really be good for your health and puts a smile on your face.

Plan of action

So let’s talk tactics. How do we get children to agree to play outside? In the United Kingdom the weather can be a bit unpredictable so having outdoor space in your garden where the children can shelter is a good idea. They will still be outside, but if it rains or is cold or windy, there is a place they can shelter. If you have a garden with the space, consider looking into children’s wooden playhouses. Perfect for toddlers and upwards, a playhouse of their own will be an exciting place to invent games and spend time away from the house. For improving communication, social and cognitive development and even emotional benefits, outdoor play wins hands down. The liberation of being outdoors frees them up to explore their own world and discover things on their own terms – perfect for aiding their development.

Spending time in outdoor play encourages children to appreciate the natural environment. Outside they will witness birds, insects, trees and plants in all their glory. Climbing trees, exploring shrubberies, making dens and playing hide and seek are all classic outdoor activities that have just as much relevance to modern children.

With dens, tree-houses, children’s wooden playhouses, outdoor games, picnics, dressing up, obstacle courses, water games and treasure hunts to name a few ideas, there is much to tempt children out into the fresh air. The great outdoors is one of life’s sweetest pleasures and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure we teach our children the value of being outside. Plan some outdoor expeditions as a family, go on a nature trail, a fishing trip or beach combing – these are all activities where children directly engage with mother nature, learning all the time that fun can be found in the simplest outdoor pleasures.

Want happier, healthier kids? The answer is waiting just outside the door…

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