A child enjoying outdoor play

Outdoor play

How often does your child play outdoors? Do they go out even when it’s raining? Do you believe that there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing?

I once worked at a famous ‘open air’ nursery, where the children were free to come and go as they pleased, inside and out, in all weathers. Teachers were obliged to offer the same quality of experiences in the garden as they did in the building. We didn’t just open the doors mid-morning to let the children run off a little steam. Play was meaningful and interesting. Unfortunately, this kind of semi-structured play is difficult to replicate at home. It takes time and planning.

But there is another kind. The out-in-nature, free-exploring, no-plan, let’s-see-what-happens kind. Whether you have a garden, have to rely on the local park or even make a trip to the woods, nothing can beat this type of play. Outside, you see a different side to your child: more creative, braver, more focused and inquisitive.

And the benefits last long after you have returned home. Everyone is calmer, and happily tired.

Next time you’re all cooped up in the house, behaviour worsening with each passing minute, dig out those puddle suits and go outside.

You won’t regret it.

Outdoor play ideas

The sensory experience of outdoor play has a profound effect on learning. The sounds, smells, textures and temperatures of the outdoor ‘classroom’ fire up the senses and stimulate young minds in a completely different way to the indoors.

The park is always fun, and when children are small, offers a safe environment where it’s easy to enjoy being outside. But as they get older, children can benefit from a rougher outdoor play setting, where slides are replaced by muddy banks or sand dunes, and climbing frames are replaced by trees.

This sort of play requires strong gross motor and subtle fine motor movements, judgement, courage, strength and determination – all skills which give them self-confidence in the use of their own bodies and minds. Outdoor play also offers the chance to run, scream, get messy and ‘go wild’ without the boundaries and limitations of an indoor environment.

Whether you’re running, climbing or making a den it’s the doing it outside that makes the difference. The freshness of the air, the changing weather and light, the sheer variety that you only find in nature. No man-made environment can compete.