These days, it seems like fewer kids are seen actively playing outdoors and rather more are seen indoors glued to a screen. With technology advances in mobile media, it’s not uncommon to find young children sitting at a park with a smartphone in hand and completely oblivious to the environment. So here are a few ways young children can better engage being outdoors and why it’s so important for their well being.
Outdoor play ideas:
- A sensory adventure is a great way to enhance children’s appreciation of the natural environment! They can pretend to be scientists and make observations of what they see, hear, touch, and smell.
- Build a kitchen with mud! This becomes imaginative play using nature’s “ingredients” that children can find including mud, sticks, stones, and leaves.
- Incorporate an outdoor water table for some splish-splash fun! Especially now that the weather is warming up for the summer, young children should be encouraged to sink their hands in water toys and knowing their clothes can dry off. Discover what things will float or sink or how quickly they can get ice to melt!
- Have an outdoor dance party! Bring a portable speaker outside and pump up the music to move around under the sun! Add some bubbles to dance with for a magical treat!
- Sturdy blocks are also great to incorporate in outdoor settings so children can discover what it’s like to build on top of sand, grass, or mud.
How this can benefit children:
- It is in the outdoors that children are likely to burn the most calories, which helps prevent childhood obesity. Nowhere is better than the outdoors for running, jumping, throwing balls, catching, pulling things, lifting and carrying objects, which also improve motor skills critical for development. Outdoor play is also a natural way to build up vitamin D, which is commonly lacked these days with so much time spent indoors.
- Children who play outdoors are more likely to be inventive and explore the world around them, which can help increase attention spans. They become creative, better problem solvers, and self-directed in outdoor environments, whereas mobile games are developed with pre-scripted content for easy engagement.
- Outdoor environments provide fresh air which can help reduce stress. Outdoor light stimulates the pineal gland, which is vital to keeping our immune system strong and making us feel happier. As a result, children’s mood can generally be happier just by spending time in nature, which also helps them to develop an appreciation and better understanding to protect the environment.
IHSD @ Ravenswood is proud to have a large play yard on campus to serve its many preschool classes. It has two large play structures, a spacious sandbox with toys, a separate climbing structure, and plenty of grassy lawn that’s also paved with sidewalks for tricycles to come through. The staff is looking forward to adding a mud kitchen, more water tables, and outdoor blocks for more reasons to enjoy outdoor play! Call us at 650-838-3460 to schedule a tour!