The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play and 3 Activities Your Preschooler Will Love
Those of us of a “certain age” have heady memories of spending our weekends and summers entertained in outdoor play. Many of us set off on foot or bicycle when the sun came up and didn’t return home until we were reminded it was almost dinner time by the street lights flickering on and the sun dipping down.
But technology and endlessly available children’s programming on television have many children withdrawing indoors and away from the many benefits of outdoor play.
And rest assured…there are so. many. benefits.
In fact, we thought the subject utterly blog-worthy, so we will be sharing a few benefits of outdoor play and 3 activities you can provide that will have your children looking forward to a little outdoor entertainment.
What’s so great about outdoor play?
1. It promotes good health
There’s something to be said about enjoying the sunshine and fresh air found outdoors, and playing outside allows children to improve their health, something of great importance considering 1 in every 4 Aussie children between the ages 2 – 17 years struggle with obesity. But recent research has indicated that time spent outdoors lower obesity rates. Case in point, a recent study found that children who spent more time playing outside had a lower body-mass index (BMI) when compared to children who played outdoors less.
While playing outdoors children are running, jumping, climbing, and crawling…and burning plenty of calories in the process.
2. It strengthens motor skills
When we say motor skills, we’re talking about both gross motor skills (those used to move the larger muscle groups found in the arms, legs, and trunk of the body) and fine motor skills (those found in the wrists, hands, and fingers).
Activities like running, jumping, rolling, and crawling all strengthen gross motor skills while climbing trees, picking flowers, and collecting rocks strengthen the fine muscles of the body that will be so important in later learning as children work to hold writing utensils, button buttons on clothing, and pull zippers on coats and jackets.
3. It instills a lifelong love for nature
As children play outdoors, they get to experience the natural world and are immersed in the beauty of our planet. The outdoors becomes, in a sense, a second home, and children are able to connect with their natural desire to interact with and explore the mysteries of the great wide open.
Activities to Encourage Outdoor Play
Water, Water Everywhere
Water play was made for outdoor enjoyment. While many assume this means going off to a local pool, there are plenty of other water activities that are just as fun. If you live somewhere without a community pool, you’ll be happy to know that preschoolers can have just as much fun in a backyard blow-up pool or splash pad.
Water guns are another fine option and are wonderful for strengthening the fine muscles in the fingers. And don’t forget about water tables which can be used to explore a variety of scientific concepts under the guise of play.
Plan an Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
Exploring is one of the best parts of being outdoors, and a scavenger hunt makes it even more exciting!
Make a list of things that can be found in your area—flowers, trees, squirrels, ducks, etc. Give the list to your child and head out for a walk in your neighborhood or local park, asking your child to mark items off the list as they discover them.
If your child is not yet reading, he or she can still get in on the fun. The internet is full of free, downloadable nature scavenger hunt sheets that use pictures rather than words (we love these created by the Pragmatic Parent).
Visit a Local Outdoor Destination
Whether you live on the coast, in the mountains, or on the flatlands, there are bound to be plenty of outdoor destinations near you.
Plan a trip to the beach. Schedule a tour of a local farm. Head to the nearest pumpkin patch or drive to the closest zoo. The possibilities are literally endless, and each will provide its own unique teachable moments.
No matter how you get your child outdoors, making sure they increase their time playing and learning outside will benefit your little love…both in the short and long term. And don’t forget to include your child in the planning process. Giving them some control over where they get to go increases the likelihood that they will actually enjoy the adventure instead of having to be drugged along for the ride.
Thanks for reading,
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