You want to set your child up for a successful future, which often means prioritizing their education. However, outdoor play is just as important, especially in today’s digital era. Discover how playing outside can nurture your little one’s development and how it can influence their journey into adulthood.

The Importance of Outdoor Play

As a child, I cherished my outdoor adventures, spending countless hours with friends outside and creating memories that defined my childhood. I still reminisce about those days, and if you spent plenty of time outdoors, I know you can relate to them, too.

However, today presents a new reality. Children and adolescents are often glued to their screens. Smartphones, tablets, TVs and gaming consoles have become their companions. On average, children ages 8-12 in the U.S. spend four to six hours on gadgets. It’s like spending the entire afternoon watching videos and playing games.

While technology offers many benefits, excessive screen time can deprive your child of invaluable outdoor learning and experiences. Children need opportunities to experiment, explore, discover and push their limits through outdoor play. Some of my favorite childhood memories are my fun times outside. It’s essential that our kids have the same opportunities for memorable experiences in the great outdoors, too.

Physical Benefits of Outdoor Play

Activities outside the house provide little ones with experiences and physical benefits that gadgets can’t offer. Explore why outdoor play is crucial to your child’s growth and development.

Better Physical Health

One of the most apparent advantages is improved health. Kids who spend more time outside are less likely to experience weight-related health problems, such as obesity. Children need at least four hours of active play in outdoor spaces such as playgrounds or even your backyard. They must walk, run, jump and climb to help build their muscles and endurance.

Exposure to Vitamin D

This nutrient is vital to your child’s immune system and muscle development. On a sunny day, a kid in a bathing suit can generate 10,000-20,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D after 15-30 minutes of sun exposure. The sun supplies this vitamin for free, and your little one can reap its benefits naturally as they engage in outdoor play.

Improved Motor Skills

Swinging on monkey bars, playing basketball and even drawing with sidewalk chalk can improve motor skills like coordination, balance, agility and flexibility. Sliding can promote leg-hip flexibility needed to prevent W-sitting, a condition when a child sits on the floor with knees together and feet pointing outward. Letting your little one explore the natural world encourages them to put their abilities to the test.

Long-Term Emotional Advantages of Outside Playtime

Spending time outdoors can build their muscles and teach them values they can carry to adulthood.

Fosters Resilience

Engaging in outdoor play pushes children to explore, fail and stand up again. Letting the kids make mistakes and experience negative emotions, like fear and disappointment, helps them become better individuals. Allow them to feel disappointed after not making it across the monkey bars and encourage them to try again. 

I let my son play alone in the playground as I watch him from a considerable distance. Allowing him to explore independently can be scary, but I know these experiences will help build his decision-making, resilience and independence.

Builds Confidence

Confidence slowly develops through daily habits, which can start in childhood. Obstacle courses, scavenger hunts, sports and capture the flag encourage kids to think outside the box and trust their abilities. As a result, they can learn how to solve problems, eventually leading to positive outcomes in their academic life and future careers.

Creates Lasting Memories

Parents must encourage and actively participate in our children’s outdoor activities. Our presence is what makes playtime more enjoyable and memorable for our kids. Going to the park every afternoon can be a bonding time. Camping trips, water fights and sports are great weekend activities you and your child can explore together. 

Teaches Responsibility

Role-playing with friends helps children understand specific roles, all while having fun. For instance, a school-themed role play can allow a child to face and teach their fellow friends about a particular topic. Similarly, entrusting a kid to play with a borrowed toy means they’ll learn how to take care of it.

Promotes Creativity

Unstructured outdoor playtime gives plenty of room for exploration. Kids can interact with plants and animals in the area, prompting them to ask questions about their existence. They can think more freely and approach the outdoors in their ways. Additionally, imaginative play encourages children to create new worlds and stories. Constant invention is an excellent way to exercise the brain. 

4 Tips to Get Your Child Excited About Outdoor Play

It’s time for your little one to bask in the sun and have fun. Here are ways to encourage your kid to play outside.

  1. Make the Play Area Exciting

Try to create or look for an outdoor area offering activities they enjoy. If they love arts and crafts, give them space to draw with chalk on the sidewalk. My son loves running and climbing, so our default play area is the community park with monkey bars and ladders.

  1. Provide Outdoor Toys

Invest in balance bikes, push-and-pull toys, pedal cars and a mini obstacle course for your backyard to make outdoor play more enjoyable. Any kid will be excited to try out a new toy, so buying these items can urge them to use it. 

  1. Lead by Example

I enjoy playing basketball and camping on weekends. I often bring my son with me, letting him participate in my activities so that they realize it’s fun to spend time outdoors. Like me, you can also involve your child in your outside activities. 

  1. Take Baby Steps

You can’t expect your little one to abandon screen time instantly. Like everything else, it takes time. Instead of aiming for extended periods of outdoor playtime, try shorter intervals to give them time to adapt to new activities.

Enjoy Playtime Outside

In this digital age, outdoor play isn’t optional but essential. It aids in enhancing children’s physical health and nurturing emotional well-being. As they experience fun and uncomfortable situations, they can acquire invaluable life-long skills that will set them up for success as they grow older.

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About Jack Shaw

Jack Shaw is the senior lifestyle writer at Modded with special interest in navigating the ins and outs of interpersonal relationships and emotional health. You'll likely find him playing with his dog or exploring nature with his family in his free time.

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