Remember growing up and your parents simply told you, “go play outside!”? Most of the time you didn’t even need telling; you wanted to be outside playing and exploring. There was no organization, rules were basic, and you came inside when your name was called or the street lights came on.
When children are outside they move more. Unstructured outdoor play is an important part of growing up. It’s where kids establish their own limits and learn the skills needed to be more physically literate.
What is physical literacy? It’s about learning to do basic body movements properly. When kids develop movement and sport skills, they are able to move confidently and with control doing a wide range of physical activities. Learn more.
Researchers suggest that too many restrictions on outdoor “risky play” (playing at heights and at higher speeds) might be doing more harm than good for a child’s development. Letting children run, jump, climb, fall, and even bruise while they are outside playing with friends helps them establish their own personal risk boundaries; a crucial skill for later in life.
Some of the best lessons I’ve learned (although I may not have thought so at the time) were through mistakes or trial-and-error. For example: falling while learning to ride my bike gave me scraped knees, but I am now very comfortable commuting to work by bike.
Here are a few other benefits kids gain from being active in the natural playground:
- More physical activity: playing outside for a few hours is a great way to reach and exceed the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per day.
- Motor skills: being active outside on different types of terrain (like ice, snow, dirt, grass, and sand) and in different weather helps with balance, strength, and hand-eye coordination.
- Knowledge: exploring the outdoors promotes imagination, creativity and learning.
- An appreciation for nature: outside, kids use all their senses; the smell of grass, the grainy feel of earth, the sound of wind rustling through trees...