Study Shows Young Children Need to Play Outdoors More
Playing is something that comes naturally to children. No matter where they are, there is always some way to play, whether it’s on the playground, in the classroom, or even just at home. In fact, Healthline explains that this is how children learn and reduce stress. However, the pandemic has reduced opportunities for children to play, especially outdoors. This has affected their chances to explore and learn about their natural environment, test their physical limits, and socialise with their peers. Here’s what research has shown about children’s need to play outdoors more often.
What Studies Have Shown
A study cited by The Guardian shows that children spend less time playing outdoors today compared to previous generations. Most children today are 11 years old by the time they are allowed to play unsupervised outside, compared to their parents who were outside playing by the time they were just nine. While COVID-19 had a significant impact on this, findings show that this was true even before the pandemic restrictions took place. This is due to parents being more risk-averse, showing greater concern for instances of stranger danger and the increase in vehicular traffic in neighbourhoods. Children who were raised on the outskirts of urban areas, however, were more likely to be allowed out to play at a younger age.
Another study from Norway explores the relationship between children’s play, well-being, and engagement. The research looked at how indoor and outdoor environments played a role in the aforementioned factors. Results showed that there was a significant correlation between children’s play and their well-being and involvement. Researchers also found that the types of play children spent their free time doing varied significantly between indoor and outdoor settings. Functional play, which involves physical play activities such as running, climbing, and riding, was more evident outdoors. Mixed play was seen in both indoor and outdoor settings.
How Children Can Be Encouraged to Play Outdoors More
Given that children aren’t getting enough opportunities outdoors, there are a few things parents can do to encourage more time to play outside.
Find a good playground. Playgrounds are one of the best ways for children to learn while having fun. It is also much safer because your kids will be around their peers and other parents too. As we discuss in our blog, playground-based learning takes lessons from the classroom while allowing children to get the physical exercise they need to keep healthy. You can also make use of playground markings to catch children’s attention and keep them interested. Children can also use the playground for structured and unstructured play, all while socialising with their peers and learning valuable lessons in the process. A good playground that is well-designed for children can help them enjoy the outdoors and grow more confident.
Do outdoor activities with them. Children often learn from the adults in their lives first. If they are apprehensive about spending time outdoors, then ease them into it with a joint activity. Gardening is a fun way to be productive while also encouraging your child to get a bit messy. This outdoor activity helps develop locomotor and body management skills as they manoeuvre around tools, plants, soil, and water. There is also plenty of sensory stimulation to be had, with colourful plants, tools, and textures. Your child can also develop their cognitive skills as they learn how to keep plants healthy during their time outdoors.
Invest in equipment for all ages. One of the best ways to encourage children to love the outdoors is by exposing them to nature as often as possible at a young age. As a family make it a point to take your children on nature walks. Today, brands like Regatta have created specialised walking boots for young children. By giving them their own walking boots, young children will have a sense of ownership and be more inclined to go out. If you have younger children, invest in a pushchair that can be taken as easily off road as to a park. As iCandy demonstrates, parents can buy pushchairs with all terrain wheels designed for both rural and urban use. Getting your children outside more will require hard work and some investments, but it will be worth it.