How Important Is Outdoor Play For A Child's Development?
"Let kids be kids while they're at it," as it goes. Parents and caregivers have to let their children act their age and allow them to engage in different kinds of play. Parents have to understand that play is not just entertainment, but a means for them to appreciate further the world they've newly been brought into. With play comes a multitude of learnings for the child. However, these days, most kids are only into one kind of play, which involves smartphones and the internet. Barely are there kids enjoying the outdoors more than the screen. As parents, you should encourage the child to engage in outdoor play. But just how important is outdoor play for a child’s development? Let’s find out.
Reasons Why Families Discourage Outdoor Play
Most dads and moms these days no longer give their children the same freedom their parents have granted them during their childhood days. Parents have become more strict with their kids, wanting them safe and secure inside the home instead of enjoying the outdoors with other kids. Here are the reasons parents often give on why they do not promote children playing outside.
- Cleanliness. Many parents restrict their children from going outside because they'd come back in messy clothes perfumed with sweat. When out to play, anything can stimulate a kid’s imagination, and they couldn’t care less if it’s mud or dirt they’re playing with. Seeing the child in disarray is a terrifying scene for modern parents, hence outdoor play is discouraged.
- Fast-paced Lifestyle. A lot of parents have lost the time to bring their kids outdoors to play. With safety being an issue, it’s just hard for parents to let kids play alone outside. Thus, parents would rather lavish their kids with toys inside the home or watch videos incessantly than spend time in the backyard, the neighborhood, or the playground.
- Formal lessons. Most parents would rather see their kids enroll in ballet, swimming, and other classes instead of seeing them play outdoors. And so at an early age, the child is already pressured to learn a skill or two. While children should be encouraged to acquire new skills and discover their talents, play should not be left out because it plays an essential role in child development. Parents should know how important is outdoor play for a child's development.
Reasons Why Parents Should Encourage Outdoor Play
While parents shun outdoor play for understandable reasons, they also have to realize they could be depriving the child of a crucial opportunity. Researches and studies find outdoor frolic to be beneficial for a child's physical, cognitive, and social development. Thus, here are a few reasons to believe in how important is outdoor play for a child's development:
- A chance to socialize with others. As a child develops, he or she will be naturally inclined to a certain kind of play. By the time a child turns two, the kid will be more interested in parallel play. It is a form play where children play different games beside each other. They may show interest at what the other is doing but would still rather play alone. At age 3-4, the kid starts to engage in associative play where the children will start getting interested in the same activity but without interacting with the other child. And at four years onwards, cooperative play sets in. In this type of play, children start to work closely to achieve a common task. Being with other kids is crucial to be able to experience cooperative play. And going outdoors is an excellent venue for children to socialize and involve in various kinds of fun that will promote growth and development. Children who are not as exposed to the outside world as they should’ve been may develop awkward social skills.
- Boost of creativity. Getting close to nature allows children to see things they would only dream of when they are stuck at home, watching the television. Allowing them to smell the fragrance of flowers or hear the bees' buzzing could become an inspiration to future creativity. The outdoors is an endless source of stimulus and excitement to a child. Hence, how important is outdoor play for a child’s development should never be underrated.
- Discover and explore. Once children come across new things, they instantly create genuine opinions and different perceptions of things. All these make way for learning, a means of sharpening a child’s intelligence.
- Boost the immune system. Exposure to the outside world, including the dirt, helps boost a child's immune system. People develop immunity when exposed to pathogens, so depriving the child of a chance to meet these microorganisms may work against their favor. It may lead them to grow sickly and fragile. Further, the outdoor play exposes the child to the sun, which helps stimulate vitamin D production. On top of that, the air outdoors is fresher. Let your child breathe in a daily dose of fresh air.
As parents, it is easy to forget that our children should have as much freedom to play as necessary even when they have fragile bodies. Exposing them to nature and different situations will strengthen them not just physically but also psychologically, cognitively, emotionally, and even spiritually. Learning is out there for the taking, for kids who are given the chance. Kids should not be deprived of avenues where they can grow. Parents should, therefore, acknowledge how important is outdoor play for a child’s development.
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