3 Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children
In the midst of doing research about the month of May, I discovered that the last full week of the month (before Memorial Day), is designated as National Backyard Games Week. I immediately thought, “Wow! I never knew that. Why not?” There are plenty of PSA (public service announcement) commercials on the radio and television about the benefits of outdoor play for children. So why haven’t I heard a PSA that there is a whole week set aside for getting EVERYONE up off the couch and outside for some backyard play?! So to celebrate National Backyard Games Week, here are some benefits of outdoor play for your children.
Consider the Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children
Regardless of you or your child’s age, there are plenty of benefits to outdoor play. It really doesn’t matter if it is relaxing by the pool or playing sports, there are plenty of benefits of outdoor play for children. To experience nature, kids don’t have to leave home – just have them step out into the backyard. I remember growing up and begging to go outside to play because I always found something to do and someone to play with!
Benefit #1 – Exercise
One of the best benefits of outdoor play for children is the exercise they will get. Childhood obesity is an epidemic (in my opinion) so much so that young children are now symptomatic for diseases that are usually associated with the elderly. Checkout the facts on childhood obesity from the Centers of Disease Control.
Regular physical activity such as walking, running, bike riding, hiking, etc. is a great way for children and adults to burn calories to stay fit. While at least 30 minutes of constant physical activity will burn calories, there are several popular backyard activities that will burn a higher amount of calories than others, such as, swimming, basketball, or volleyball. Everyone in my family can ride a bike, so we’ve invested time in riding bikes on a nearby biking path at least twice a week as a family.
Benefit #2 – Inspire A Love of Nature and Science
I have been homeschooling for almost five years and have observed that children learn best through their natural curiosity and real life, hands on experience when it comes to the sciences. By developing a love of playing outside as early as possible, you may be preparing your children for a lifetime love of nature and science. Exposing children to the outdoors inspires “teachable moments” that can be used to enrich what they may already be learning in school by way of projects, science experiments and research. This could possibly make a traditional backyard activity become something that they will never forget!
Toddlers love to explore their surroundings! Make exploring your backyard fun and exciting for your little one by purchasing books or resource guides for toddlers on subjects such as bugs, plants, flowers, or birds. And if you have a garden, definitely let them assist you with the care and upkeep of it.
Benefit #3 – Responsibility/Socialization
The best benefit for outdoor play for children is when they are able to play with friends in the backyard. My kids always tell me where they will be when they are outside – in the neighbor’s backyard. At dinner, I always ask my kids what happened in the neighbor’s backyard while they were playing. They tell some very interesting stories from creepy crawly creatures they discovered, to games they made up to play. So whether you setup a play date for your toddler or your teenager wants to invite friends over, they will definitely have fun and memorable experiences to reflect on.
To further add to your child’s enjoyment of the backyard, camp out or have a barbeque! These are a great ways to experience the backyard and spend quality time together. Let you child assist you with organizing these activities such as making a list of food dishes, making a guest list, or a list of games to play. By allowing your child to help you prepare food or setup camping equipment, you may also be helping them understand the importance of responsibility.