We’re becoming more and more aware of the fact that children have a lot less time to play outdoors, with a wealth of studies citing the negative effects of spending time on electronic devices, having less freedom to roam without parental supervision and indoor play times. The good news is that the benefits of outdoor play are huge, and you can gain a lot of these benefits no matter how young or old you are. Today is National Playday, the theme this year is Play Builds Children and that seems like a great excuse to tell you about some of these amazing benefits.
Climbing, crawling, jumping, carrying, outdoor play is perfect for big movements that build muscles and burn energy. Being outside provides so much more space for big movement, and it’s even better when there are places to climb trees, build dens or balance along big logs. Join in with your child’s play and you’ll get all of these benefits too! Alongside that, getting deeply involved in tying knots for making swings, or building shelters helps children to develop their fine motor skills (the ones which help them to tie their shoe laces and to hold a pen)
The sense of relaxation that you feel when you go outdoors is one of our favourite things here at the Wildlife Trust, in fact its one of the many reasons lots of us do the work that we do. Outside play gives you access to sunlight, which is great for Vitamin D production that helps to boost mood. Simply being outdoors is good for our health and happiness, but engaging with nature through play is a great way of improving your mental wellbeing.
Learning through play
Maria Montessori said ‘play is the work of the child’. Play is how children learn, they work through problems to find different solutions and test them, and they role play different situations to understand them. Children need to play in order to learn and it’s essential this play is self-directed, freely chosen and motivated by the child’s needs. Outdoor play offers a unique experience for children, providing them with a whole range of objects that can become something else, and wide open spaces and tiny hiding places that can become a part of a child’s game.
Whether it’s climbing a tree, balancing along a fallen log or swinging from an outdoor swing, enabling children to take calculated risks which they have the opportunity to think about and access with an adult is really beneficial. All of our Education Officers are trained to enable risky play in a way that balances the risks and the benefits for children.
Connecting to nature
Outdoor play allows children to get up close and personal with some of our amazing UK wildlife. Children can spend hours investigating and categorising minibeasts, creating woodlice houses, or telling stories about the birds and mammals and the signs they leave behind. Connecting to nature brings benefits for mental health and wellbeing, happiness and health but it also fosters a love of wildlife that will stay with your child forever. Many of the people who work for the Wildlife Trust have tales of playing outdoors in nature as children, and a lot of us would cite these first experiences as on of the reasons we became the people we are today.
You don’t need us to enjoy outdoor play, we manage over 50 nature reserves across Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, and with the fantastic coast line accessible in both counties there are plenty of amazing places to play. But if you fancy joining us for some outdoor play this August we have some amazing activities taking place. From Wildlife Tots to Wildbeach, campfire cooking to minibeast hunting there’s plenty of opportunities for outdoor play during our events. Take a look at our website for more information and to book.