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PlaygroundEquipment Blog
Monday, November 17, 2014

Outdoor Play Impacts Sustainable Child Development

“Play outside, while you still have the time to do so! Being young and free happens only once in a lifetime, trust me.”

This is what parents would likely tell their children nowadays especially because gadgets have kept children indoors. With the changing trend of toy types, these gadgets force children to stay indoors and shut the doors from playing outside.

Photo by John Morgan via Flickr
As a matter of fact, children today would rather spend their time on house arrest wired to computers, cellphones, tablets, TV, video games rather than ride a see-saw in the park. In a poll conducted by the Nature Conservancy, only 10% of the children they interviewed actually spend time playing outside. With only 10 out of 100 kids playing outdoors, this increases the current children obesity rate while decreasing the children’s chances of learning and development.

What is Outdoor Play?
Experts say that playtime is pivotal to the overall childhood experience. Play which occurs either indoors or outdoors provide children with different experiences and opportunities which contributes greatly to the development. Unlike playing indoors, outdoor play is playtime outside the comfort of the home and embracing the vast wilderness.

In a report, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that childhood play is “essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient. Through outdoor play, children are able to release their tension, run around freely, and even shout their lungs dry!

At an early age, children develop their motor skills like walking and running, as well as their perception in the things surrounding them. Sheridan Bartlett, and expert on children and environmental issues explains that play is an avenue for children to engage in “exploration, manipulation, physical exuberance, experimentation and pretence.”

Photo by Aikawa Ke via Flickr
Last 2009, a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign explained that playtime is a "fundamental avenue for learning.“ Numerous studies show that outdoor play helps children grow strong, explore new things, enhance imaginations and attention spans, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance. On top of this, there are other reasons and benefits which only the great outdoors could provide children. The following reasons will explain the benefits of outdoor play on children development.

1. Provides Fun Exercise
Unlike playing with video games or online games, outdoor play initiates movement and physical exercise in the most subtle way.

Even when they think they are just playing tag with their friends, they are exercising their muscles and even learning mind-and-body coordination as well. On top of this, research shows that the importance of outdoor play   even delves into teaching children self-management, self-control, and even collaborative play.

2. Boosts Immunity
Other parents may think that allowing their child to play outside is an open invitation for bacterias and allergens to attack their precious one.

While this may be true, regular and natural exposure to these harmful things actually builds up your child’s immunity over these things. The outdoors gives children access to fresh air and sunlight which is beneficial to a child’s immunity.

On top of this, the North Carolina Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center promotes physical activity as it decreases the risk of developing health conditions like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, obesity and many other chronic health conditions.

As such, schools should teach children to play outside and engage in extensive physical activity to address the growing problem of obesity among American children.

3. Learning and Fresh discoveries
Children are curious. Outdoor play encourages them to explore the unknown such as feeling the earth beneath them, watching a butterfly, and even asking why the sky is blue or the leaves green.

With their natural curiosity, exposing them outside brings forth lessons and learning conversations between parents and children. Thus, brain and social development is enhanced as well.

4. Building Childhood Memories
Playtime should be felt by all the senses. With active play, children gets to experience the entire playtime process which gives him life lessons.

Encouraging children to play outside helps them realize what childhood is all about-- jumping, rolling, laughing out loud, hiding, being fools of themselves! Let the children be children.

5. Socialization
Social skills are developed during playtime especially outdoors. Parents could engage their children into outdoor play ideas such as pushing each other in the swing, see-saws, and playing in the sandbox with other kids.

Socialization could start with parents introducing their child to other kids in the neighborhood or inviting other kids into house projects like gardening or picnics.

6. A Break from the Ordinary
Most children spend their time indoors and inviting them to take a step outside for fun and forget academics even for a moment.

Although parents must equally prioritize academics over play, children need their fix of adventure. Parents should make it a point to incorporate learning with play by being involved in the play.

Through playtime, they are extending their areas of knowledge based on their five senses and not just about what they have read. Moreover, studies have shown that children who frequently play outside are better in solving problems compared to those children frequently playing with their computers or gadgets/

Outdoor play is a need for all children especially at this technology-run age. Experts believe that this developmental activity is also a fun way of releasing tension and building memories as a child which can never be replaced by any gadget.

Getting a child interested in outdoor play may be challenging due to factors such as safety and accessibility. However, at this age where children have lesser interest and fewer opportunity to explore the outdoors, parents have to double their efforts to provide for this need.

Go to the nearest park and let children play in the playground. With the help of the computer, accessing numerous websites online for toys and playground equipments are easier for parents. For more healthful and helpful information about building  outdoor play structures for your kids or students, get in touch, today!

Learn about the author: Jennifer Holmes

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