As a parent, you want what’s best for your child. You want them to be happy and healthy and grow into well-rounded adults. A big part of that is making sure they have plenty of opportunities to explore and play. And what better place to do that than outdoors? Experts suggest that kids must spend at least three hours outside every day to reap the benefits of fresh air and sunlight.
This blog post will explore the importance of outdoor experiences for your child’s development and ways to encourage them to get outside and play.
The Benefits of Outdoor Experiences
As you may already know, outdoor play is essential for your child’s physical development. They need time to run, jump, and be active in general. This helps them to develop their large muscle groups and coordination. But did you know outdoor play is just as crucial for your child’s physical, social, and emotional development? Here’s why:
Outdoor experiences also promote cognitive development in children. This includes problem-solving skills, memory, attention span, language development, and more. When kids are outside, they’re constantly presented with new challenges and opportunities to explore. They might encounter a bug they’ve never seen before or figure out how to build a dam out of sticks and stones. They’ll remember where they found a specific flower or which way the creek bends.
One of the best ways to ensure your child’s cognitive development is on track is to encourage outdoor play and exploration. This can be done by enrolling them in a child care center with an outdoor playground where they can run and play to their heart’s content while also being supervised.
Outdoor play is essential for physical development. It helps kids build strength, coordination, and motor skills. Running, climbing, and jumping all help improve gross motor skills. These are the skills we use to move our large muscles, like our legs and arms. Things like riding a bike or swimming also require using smaller muscles, known as fine motor skills. Playing catch or shooting hoops improves hand-eye coordination. Being outdoors also allows kids to move their bodies and burn off energy!
Social & Emotional Development
In addition to promoting physical and cognitive development, outdoor experiences also support social and emotional development in children. Playing outdoors allows kids to interact with other children in an unstructured setting. They learn how to share, take turns, resolve conflicts, and respect others’ personal space. They also develop a sense of independence as they explore their surroundings independently or with friends. Being in nature can also help children feel calm and relaxed, reducing stress and anxiety.
How to encourage outdoor activities
It’s no secret that children today spend more time indoors than they did in previous generations. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children aged 8-18 spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media, including TV, computers, video games, and movies, outside of school and homework.
With so much time spent indoors, parents need to encourage their children to get outside and be active. Here are some tips:
Lead by Example
One of the best ways to encourage your children to be more active outdoors is to lead by example. If you are constantly making excuses to avoid going outside or if you complain about being tired after spending time outside, your child will likely follow your lead. On the other hand, if you are vocal about your love for hiking, biking, or running, your child will be more inclined to show an interest in these activities as well.
Find Their Interests
Find out what kind of outdoor activities your child enjoys and go from there. If they love animals, take them on walks around the neighborhood or hiking in the woods, so they can explore nature. For kids who like sports, try signing them up for a local soccer team or taking them to the park to play catch. There are endless possibilities when it comes to finding an activity that interests your child – it just takes a little bit of research!
Make it Fun!
Finally, remember that outdoor activities should be fun for kids! If they’re not enjoying themselves, they will not want to continue doing the exercise. Make sure you praise them when they do something well and give them plenty of encouragement along the way. Also, don’t hesitate to use some bribery if necessary (a post-activity ice cream cone always goes a long way).
The bottom line
Parents need to be intentional about getting their kids outdoors to play. With so many benefits, it’s vital for children to have regular outdoor experiences. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make sure your child is getting the most out of their time outdoors!