Helping your child make the most of the outdoors
Contains affiliate links - please see our disclosure policy
I love getting the kids outside, whether it's to local woods, parks or just in the garden, the outdoors is naturally entertaining so I don't have to work anywhere near as hard as when we're indoors. It also burns off energy so they eat well and sleep better. Bonus!
Have you ever thought about the benefits of spending time outside? It does seem like hard work sometimes, but it's worth trying to make some time for it as your child will learn so much!
The benefits of outdoors play
Improves both physical and mental health
Fresh air and exercise is good for physical health, and nature helps trigger the production of serotonin, the 'happy hormone'.
Gives opportunities to take risks
If we allow children to take playful risks then they will gain a sense of self and good judgement.
Allows more physical exploration
Outdoors play has none of the rules and restrictions of indoors play and pretty much everything can be played with.
Tactile learners can handle and manipulate their environment
Tactile learners are children that focus and learn better when they are handling objects - outdoors spaces are perfect for hands-on learning opportunities.
Encourages imaginative play
Natural materials are 'open-ended', which means they have no pre-determined way to be played with - this allows your child to be creative in how they are used.
Helps play to be spontaneous and unstructured
Outdoors play is mostly child-led, so your child can play in their own way, with a true sense of freedom.
Improves communication and use of descriptive language
Your child can build their vocabulary, through observing animals and plants, talking about their actions or creating new games.
Outdoors spaces are generally safer environments (no cars for example), so your child can put more distance between you and them.
Gives more physical freedom due to the space
There is more space outdoors so your child is able to move their body in more ways and develop their gross motor skills.
Prompts conversations about the environment
You might see some litter when out, and talk about how important it is to pick it up, or spot some signs of wildlife and talk about how we can look after them.
Increases attention span and memory
A study in Norway in 2017 found that there is a direct link between the number of hours a child spends outdoors and their ability to concentrate and retain information.
Develops observational skills
The outdoors stimulates your child's senses through what they hear, touch, see and feel - it encourages them to be aware of their surroundings.
We have seen that children have much to gain from venturing outdoors, but sometimes it can be difficult to motivate them to step away from the screen. The best way is to help them gain a natural love and enthusiasm for outdoors play by incorporating it in your daily life.
How to foster a love of the outdoors
Go for regular walks or bike rides as a family.
Show curiosity and interest in nature.
Give your child appropriate clothes and permission to get dirty.
Use nature as play equipment - balance on logs, climb rocks, stomp on mole hills.
Involve your child in gardening e.g. raking grass after mowing or watering plants in a window box.
Go camping - if you're not convinced with sleeping under canvas, try hiring a pod.
Join the National Trust or your local Wildlife Trust as they have lots of outdoor spaces.
Carry a pocket guide so you can identify any interesting flora or fauna.
Have picnics at parks or playgrounds.
Visit interesting areas like forests, rockpools and mountains on your next holiday.
Meet up with other families so your little ones can explore together.
Go out in all seasons and weathers.
The wonderful thing about playing outdoors is that there are so many opportunities for your child to play and explore that you don't need to worry how you're going to entertain them. But sometimes they run out of inspiration, or it's just nice to mix things up a little bit.
For those times here's a list of some fun ideas:
Free outdoor activities
Have a scavenger hunt
Look for mini-beasts
Make some transient art
Look for animal tracks
Sow seeds together
Listen to the birds
Create a mud kitchen with old pots and pans
Make a journey stick using wool
Use creative tools in the garden e.g. water and a paintbrush
Collect pinecones, feathers etc. for a loose parts collection
These are just some of our favourite things to do outside, there are loads more ideas here. If you want a bit more inspiration, these are our favourite books about playing outdoors:
Go Wild in the Woods by Goldie Hawk & Rachael Saunders
Forest School Adventure by Naomi Walmsley & Dan Westall
Does your little one enjoy playing outside?
PIN IT FOR LATER!