Taking your child to the park is an excellent way of getting fresh air and tiring them out, but it’s not just a fun way to spend an afternoon. There are lots of benefits to child development.
Your child’s mental health, fine motor skills, and social development will all improve by spending time outdoors and interacting with other children.
Here, we explore how physical activity and encouraging your kids to play outdoors will benefit your kids and how the measures you can take to ensure they stay safe, whether they’re using outdoor play equipment or playing with their own games and toys, like a kids electric car.
The physical health benefits of outdoor play
The most apparent benefit to encouraging children to play outside is that it benefits their physical health. Running around, burning calories, using their muscles, it’s all great for their health in general.
More specifically, children will see the following physical benefits of outdoor play.
- Physical fitness
Outdoor play encourages kids to perform many types of physical activity, from running and jumping to playing on bikes or a kids ride on car. These activities help kids develop physical fitness and promote a healthy and active life.
- Vitamin D
The sun is a natural source of vitamin D, which helps bone development and immune function. The more kids play outside, the more vitamin D they’ll absorb. Just be careful to apply sunscreen to avoid getting too much sun.
- Stronger immune system
As they interact with the natural environment around them, kids will come into contact with different bacteria, making their bodies more resilient. Additionally, being active increases the function of the lymphatic system, which plays an integral part in keeping our bodies safe from bacteria and viruses.
- Muscle and bone growth
Regularly playing outdoors supports the growth and development of kids’ muscles and bones, especially if they are encouraged to participate in various games and sports.
- Motor skills
Letting your child play outside from an early age will significantly benefit the development of their motor skills, balance and coordination. Organising different games will help their fine motor skills, e.g. activities like skimming stones, and their gross motor skills will improve by skipping, running and riding their bikes.
- Improved senses
As well as boosting kids’ ability to move, playing in and exploring natural settings can help to stimulate all their senses, as kids smell, touch and listen to the world around them. Furthermore, exposure to natural light and varying distances can help mitigate the risk of children becoming nearsighted as they get older.
- Cardiovascular health
As kids release pent-up energy by running around, cycling or jumping, their heart rate increases, which supports healthy blood circulation around their body. This improved cardiovascular fitness will mean they’re more able to keep up with their friends and less likely to develop conditions such as
- Weight management
In addition to aiding their physical development, leading an active life can reduce kids’ risk of childhood obesity. As children play games and sports, they burn calories, which helps kids to maintain a healthy weight, especially when coupled with a nutritious diet.
The mental health and emotional well-being benefits of outdoor play
Spending time outdoors and being active have long been linked to good mental health, but how will playing outside affect your kids’ mental health? Here are eight benefits.
- Improved moods
Outdoor play is associated with having a greater sense of happiness. Likewise, physical activity and time spent outdoors, in the fresh air and sunshine, can release serotonin – boosting kids’ moods.
- Enhanced creativity
The sensory experiences and stimulation of playing outdoors will help to spark your kid’s imagination and creativity. Exploring natural environments and surroundings, interacting with other kids and nature, and engaging in unstructured outdoor play will all inspire your child to be more creative.
- Increased self-esteem
Overcoming challenges, achieving physical milestones, and mastering new skills like riding a bike or climbing trees will give kids a sense of accomplishment – helping boost their self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Better concentration
As children play outside, they will think of their games and activities. Not only does this increase their imagination, but it helps them to pay attention to tasks and aids cognitive development.
- Resilience and coping skills
Spending time playing outside forces kids to adapt to changing conditions and environments. Additionally, failing to overcome obstacles and complete challenges at the first attempt will further increase children’s resilience and coping skills.
- Closer connection to nature
As kids spend time outdoors, they will build a connection to nature – this provides a sense of purpose and belonging, which can enhance. Research suggests that people who connect with nature are usually happier in life.
- Increased sense of freedom and adventure
Being outside provides kids with a chance to let their imaginations run wild. If you head on a nature walk, you should encourage kids to explore and discover new things. This fosters a sense of freedom and curiosity while being exciting and empowering.
- Improved mindfulness and awareness
While discovering new things, like animals and insects, your kids will practise focusing on the present moment. Moments of calm and a heightened awareness of their surroundings can improve mental clarity and reduce stress.
How outdoor play develops kids’ social skills
Playing outdoors provides kids with an environment to explore and meet new friends. Below are eight ways playing outside and interacting with nature and other children will help to develop your kids’ social skills.
- Emotional regulation
Outdoor playtime with friends encourages kids to manage their emotions as they learn patience and develop coping strategies. In addition, open space and the freedom of the great outdoors let children release their feelings and express themselves, whether laughing hysterically or shouting in frustration because they struggle to overcome an obstacle.
- Increases social interaction
Heading to the local playground or park may be a good way of tiring your little ones out, but it’s also crucial for increasing their social skills. As children play with each other, they develop friendships and learn how to interact with other people, which is vital for navigating everyday life as they get older.
- Enhances family relationships
It’s not just other kids your child should be socialising with, but family too. Sharing experiences with your whole family, from siblings to grandparents, contributes to positive family dynamics and builds emotional bonds.
- Improves communication skills
Playing outside is essential in helping children foster relationships from a young age. Kids need to be able to communicate to make friends, so exposing them to social situations requires them to listen and explain things like their thoughts and feelings, so engaging in free play with other kids will benefit your child’s development.
- Cooperation and teamwork
Outdoor activities often include group play, encouraging kids to collaborate, work toward common goals and share ideas. Fostering and developing these skills from a young age will help children progress through education and into their careers.
- Conflict resolution
Kids tend to have different ideas and perspectives about playing games and sports. Exposing them to differences of opinion will benefit children as they learn how to negotiate, compromise and find solutions to disagreements and conflicts.
- Builds confidence
Playing outdoors encourages children to interact independently and make social choices. Further to this, the activities and games children participate in will broaden their comfort zone too. Risky play, like obstacle courses or hide and seek, pushes children to be confident in themselves and what they can do.
- Aids understanding of social etiquette
Outdoor time with other kids exposes children to social norms that, as adults, we take for granted. Children learn to wait their turn, respect others’ space and greet each other by playing outdoors and taking part in different activities.
Moreover, this exposure to social situations teaches kids about nonverbal cues, like reading body language and facial expressions. All of these things aid kids’ abilities to understand the emotions and intentions of other people.
Staying safe while spending time playing outside
We have established that playing outside is crucial to children’s learning and development. To maximise their fun and keep them safe, you must take measures to keep them safe.
The types of rules you put in place for your kids will depend on their age. If you have older kids, you may allow them more independence than younger children. Here are our tips for ensuring kids of all ages stay safe while playing outside.
Even if they only play outside for a short time, you must set clear expectations for how your kids should behave. This could include where and how they play, i.e. staying where you can see them and making sure they stick with their friends.
Depending on your kid’s age, give them a mobile phone to use if they need anything, like a lift home.
Talking to strangers, traffic safety and boundaries relating to where your kids can go should all be defined too.
Organising appropriate activities
Before your kid starts using apparatus at your local park or playground, inspecting it and ensuring it’s working is a good idea. Sharp edges or damaged equipment may cause injury, so you should identify any problems before your kids start to play.
Additionally, if your kids are playing on a bike or scooter, you must ensure it is suitable for their size and age. Too large or too small, and your child may injure themselves.
Protecting them from the elements
Another key consideration to ensure your kids’ safety is the weather. Regardless of the season, your kid must wear the correct clothing and is properly hydrated. In the warmer months, you must protect them from the sun by applying sun cream and encouraging them to wear sunglasses and hats. Similarly, plenty of warm layers are advised in the cooler months.
More from Electric Ride on Cars
Spending time outdoors is crucial to children’s development, so we’ve compiled a number of guides to help you maximise the positive impact of outdoor play.
Head to the Electric Ride on Cars blog to see the best toys for gross motor development, the benefits of go-karting for kids, when you should start teaching your kid to ride a bike, and much more.