Our ultimate goal as a parent is to make sure our children are happy and healthy. We can take them to play parks, feed them nutritious food and enrol them into sports activities to achieve some amount of happiness and healthiness. This will all have a positive impact on your child and their lifestyle but one of the best gifts you can give your child in their life is introducing them to nature and the great outdoors. If you encourage them to be involved with nature from a young age, you are setting up a wonderful foundation for a life-long connection to the natural world.
What are the benefits of playing outside (in a natural environment?)
By being outside your child is experiencing an environment which is forever changing. Outdoor play helps stimulate and develop all the senses – Intellectual, Emotional, Physical and Social.
Here are some examples of how nature can impact your child’s development:
1. Emotional Development
Being outside feels great. Your child can run, play freely, explore and make noise. These are all wonderful forms of self expression that are normally not allowed inside the house. Letting your child be free to do what they want (run, skip, climb, shout) relaxes any tension or anxiety they may have.
It is also great for your child to connect to nature. Some children find bugs and some climb trees. Whatever they do, the nature enhances peace in children and brings out nurturing qualities in them.
2. Intellectual Development
The learning of the great outdoors is limitless. There is so much for your child to take in, it is like an open ended school of nature. Children are natural scientists and love to experience sights, sounds and textures of things outside. Nature provides so much opportunity for your children to explore, discover and create. In nature children are constantly having to think and question and conclude an answer which is good for developing their inquisitiveness and overall knowledge.
3. Social Development
When children play outside together, they learn to share and problem solve together. If they are playing with no adult interference, they often make up their own games and rules and solve their own problems without inhibition. Being outside is calming for children and it often brings out a gentle side, even in highly hyperactive children. Playing together outside creates a bond and children develop empathy for one another and the environment around them.
4. Physical Development
The fresh air outside combined with physical activity is very beneficial for your child’s physical growth and fitness. Outdoor play is more physical than indoor play as they have a larger space to run around in and more things to play with/on. This therefore burns more calories in your child. When your child is outside and they are running, lifting, climbing and carrying things, a lot of muscle is being used.
Being outside means your child has more exposure to sunlight, which means they are absorbing more vitamin D which has wonderful benefits, one of which is contributing to a strong immune system.
Don’t worry if your child gets dirty while playing, this is natural and again only helps to build their immune system.
EVERY child can benefit from being outside in nature. As well as being very impacting on your child’s development, if your child connects to the natural world then it is a benefit shared by us all. We want this next generation of children to love nature so much so that they respect it. These children are the future and they need to have passion for protecting their environment and preserving our planet. As parents we can foster this passion from a young age.
You can take your child outside in nature as soon as they are born. The fresh air, sound and smells are wonderful for their senses and overall health. As your child grows and learns to walk, you can play with them outside. If you get involved you are offering guidance to your child who wants to try a new activity. As your child grows more and they want to explore more, you as a parent must let your child play in a way where they will develop and gain new experiences. It is your job to provide a balance of risk and safety. If your child wants to climb a tree, let them! but maybe show them how to do it first.
Don’t panic if your child gets a little cut or a bruise. This is part and parcel of playing outside. It will not damage them on the long run, but make them stronger to tackle the task again.
Playing in nature benefits your child in these ways:
• They gain knowledge and understanding of the environment
• They learn about creatures and animals and their habitat
• They get good exercise and develop physically
• Playing outside fosters empathy for other children and the environment around them
• They learn to think, question and problem solve
• Fresh air is so good for your child’s mental and physical health
• Sunlight provides vitamin D which has many health benefits for your child
• Outside play reduces tension, anxiety and restlessness.
• Playing in nature is relaxing and peaceful for your child’s mind, body and soul
As parents, let us lay the groundwork for a beautiful, life long connection to the outside, natural world!