‘Can we go outside?’ I hear this question most days before I’ve even had a chance to wake up or get dressed. My children love to play outside, rain or shine – preferably in bare feet and with water or dirt involved! And while I can’t say I always relish the prospect when it’s cold or 6am, I am a clear believer in the benefits of outdoor play.
So when Elastoplast asked me to share their new campaign #tearsintosmiles, celebrating the freedom and benefits of outdoor play, and the how falling down is all part of growing up, I couldn’t have agreed more.
Children need freedom to flourish. When they are running around outside they have this in a way that they never can within four walls. They can climb, jump, throw things, get messy and do all the things that they are so often restricted from doing when they are stuck inside.
With freedom, comes boundaries. Not boundaries that we impose on them but ones they learn to set themselves. They learn, through experience, when something is too high, too far or just not right. They may take a tumble or have some tears to work it out but they learn to understand and trust their own instincts.
Give my children a stick or two and they can create the most elaborate little worlds! It doesn’t matter how many plastic toys they have, or how much TV they watch, there is nothing as interesting as their own imagination. It’s amazing how the simplest items can instigate an adventure.
There is plenty of research that shows how being outside and in nature positively impacts our emotions. It makes us feel calmer, more energised and in control, and can help us deal with any negative feelings. The same is true for children and setting them free is great if they, or you, have had a tough day.
Picking up leaves, jumping in puddles and building dens are all fun activities but they also help our children’s physical development. Outdoor play can help them develop physical strength and dexterity as well as honing their fine motor skills, balance and concentration.
There’s nothing like climbing a tree to make you feel like you can conquer the world! There is always something in outdoor play, whether it’s splashing in the biggest puddle or floating a stick down a river, to make children feel like they have achieved something.
‘What’s that Mummy?’ ‘How does it work?’ Children are naturally inquisitive and being outdoors is a great way to let them learn through discovery. Whether that’s picking up snails, seeing how the wind moves the trees or discussing why the sky is blue. Nature’s classroom is the best!
Children need physical exercise every day and most do not get the chance to have enough. Running around and enjoying the outdoors give the best kind of exercise – that they don’t even realise they are getting! Our bodies are not made for sitting down all day but for moving and doing.
It is amazing how children interact when there is nothing to distract them – whether that is a brightly coloured toy, TV, or a hovering parent. Leave them to their own devices and one of the benefits of outdoor play you will uncover is the way thtir build cooperation, compromise and negotiation skills you didn’t know they had.
It’s inevitable when your kids are playing outside that they will get bumped, grazed or hurt in some way. Usually if you give them a bit of space, a quick kiss and a large dose of distraction, they will soon be on their way playing with something else as if nothing has happened. A ‘sticker’, as we call plasters, with their favourite cartoon character on is also always guarenteed to put a smile on their face again!