Outdoor play is essential for children of all ages and abilities; providing exciting sensory experiences, physical challenges to develop gross motor skills and fitness, and stimulating activity to support brain development.
A 2016 survey of 12,000 parents with children aged from 5 to 12 years old, in 10 countries, found almost a third of children play outside for just 30 minutes or less a day. And with less than half of play areas in the UK deemed as accessible, and even fewer to be inclusive this can pose a real problem for children’s development. Yet children who regularly play outdoors have been shown to be happier, healthier, more confident and less anxious.
Here are some of the top benefits of outdoor play for children of all ages and abilities!
Learning about other children of different, ages, backgrounds and abilities is a value for life which can developed through outdoor play. Inclusive play opportunities at a young age support children to overcome the social barriers that come with disability, and will build on team working skills for the future.
Playing in outdoor areas gives children a wide array of equipment to play with, helping them to develop both their fine and gross motor skills. Physical play – whether it’s on climbing frames, swings or playing with sensory panels – promotes awareness of self and joints, contributes to balance and equilibrium and helps children differentiate pressure, texture and traction.
It is scientifically proven that the outdoors makes us happy! Fresh air, vitamin D and outdoor surroundings stimulate hormones within our brains and improves our mood. Additionally, children can release any built up energy and frustrations in a positive manner.
Playing alone is important for children to help develop their social independence and imagination. Additionally, solo play time encourages calmness and peaceful play, which can be very soothing. This is important for all children, especially those with autism or other cognitive processing disorders.
Decision Making & Strategy
Playing games outdoors, both alone and in groups can be an important learning tool for kids. Games teach kids to plan and make decisions, understand strategy, rules and objectives. Games also encourage the ability to focus and lengthen attention span.
Studies conducted in the last decade have found that outdoor play and sensory play are especially important for children with ADHD or sensory processing disorders. Children who play outdoors are found to have milder symptoms of ADHD than those who play indoors.