A simple way to increase your child’s chances of living a healthy, successful life is to encourage as much outdoor time as possible. Being outside allows kids to exercise both their bodies and their minds; it’s great for motor, sensory, social and cognitive development.
It’s good for us to be outside, too! Taking a breather surrounded by nature helps put all of life’s busyness into perspective. Plus it’s super fun out there, which might be reason enough to take the kids outside as often as you can.
1. Being outside in nature is the antidote to screens
A fresh body of research is concluding that time outside in nature can counteract some of the negative impact of being inside on screens. One research report suggested that a combination of outdoor time and time on screens may be optimal for learning. The team suggested that nature balances the demands that screens have on attention, reducing cognitive fatigue and improving divergent thinking. Which basically means, let’s get those kids outside pronto!
2. Outside is less structured and encourages imaginative play
Send the kids outside without toys or instructions, and see what they can create. The outside environment is constantly changing and natural elements provide all the toys they need. Natural elements are “open-ended materials, that can respond to children’s imagination and needs,” says Jan White in her book Playing and Learning Outside. “Play outdoors offers children the freedom to be inquisitive, exploratory, adventurous, innovative and messy.”
Even better if your child’s preschool or daycare has a philosophy and environment that supports extended outdoor time. For example, at The Green Elephant Early Learning Centre, outside is at the heart of every day. Active play, craft, gardening and cooking all happen outdoors, naturally making the environment and sustainability a key focus for the kids.
3. More likely to engage in active play
The current Australian government recommendation is for children to have opportunities to move actively and freely for at least three hours a day. Taking the kids outside is an easy, natural way to get them moving more.
“Outdoor play offers more chances to move, explore and discover different environments,” recommends the Department of Health and Ageing. “The outdoors is full of noises, sights and adventures just waiting to be explored.”
4. Getting dirty is good for you
We joke that it’s “good for their immunity” when the kids get extra-grubby (or maybe that’s just me!), but we’re onto something. Early exposure to germs has been shown to have lasting benefits for developing a healthy immune system. It’s also good for our mental health, with studies revealing that exposure to dirt can decrease depression and anxiety.
5. Enhances education and learning
A 2018 study found that being outside can improve kids’ ability to concentrate, even when they return indoors. So time in nature has lasting benefits on their ability to focus and learn. In addition, nature has a unique ability to stimulate and inspire children.
“This is the child’s domain,” says White. “A more democratic place for learning about the world and about being human.”
6. Outdoor play encourages social interaction
Active play is often social play, so being outside encourages kids to be together. The outside environment also allows kids to show different aspects of their personality that might not emerge during time indoors. Kids also play more cooperatively outside, with less conflict.
“This phenomenon can be explained by factors such as space dimension, diversity of materials and the existence
of more challenges and obstacles that also promoted cooperation and sharing between children,” says Helen Bilton, co-author of Taking the First Steps Outside. This was especially true for children who regularly played outside.
7. Nature diffuses stress
There’s an increasing amount of evidence that being in nature boosts our mental health. We feel calmer and better able to cope with the stressors of life after spending time in greenspace. According to Attention Restoration Theory, being in an urban environment forces our brains to work harder. Being outside helps restore our ability to cope with mental fatigue, and strengthens our mental resilience.
This sponsored post was bought to you The Green Elephant Early Learning Centre.