There’s something amazing about playing outside. Just about every parent has fond memories of the smell of spring, the squeak of swing sets and the open-ended, anything-goes freedom of outdoor play.
But times are changing. A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that kids older than eight spend more than seven hours each day consuming electronic media. Video games, mobile devices and television are obvious culprits, but even many “educational” toys play a role in keeping our kids inside and glued to their electronics.
Certainly, toys that talk, spell and count have their place in childhood development. However, many experts believe that when kids get outside and play, it has a unique and lasting, positive effect on children’s physical, mental and emotional development. We here at KidKraft have composed a list of five excellent reasons to get your kids to unplug, get outside and have some fun!
1. Outdoor play teaches kids to appreciate their environment
Today’s technology provides entertainment possibilities that were impossible a generation ago. Electronic toys, video games and mobile devices can make it easy to forget that there’s a whole big world to explore outside the walls of our homes and classrooms. Getting out of the house to enjoy the outdoors, kids develop a closer connection to the world around them. Outdoor play helps kids understand what it means to belong to a community, and makes them more aware of their place in nature. And according to The National Wildlife Federation, spending regular time outdoors inspires kids to be better future caretakers of the environment.
2. Outdoor play encourages physical activity and exercise
With kids spending so much time on the computer and in front of the TV, it can be hard to make sure they’re getting enough exercise. Outdoor play is a fun way to get kids on their feet and out into the sunshine. Climbing, sliding, and playing on a swing set are all great ways to improve strength, flexibility and promote overall cardiovascular wellness.
3. Outdoor play helps kids learn
Many experts believe that outdoor play helps facilitate learning. According to VoiceOfPlay.org, a nonprofit advocacy group, unstructured free play “helps children develop language and reasoning skills, encourages autonomous thinking and problem solving as well as helps improve their ability to focus and control behavior.” There are plenty of great learning toys out there – electronic and otherwise. But to better promote childhood learning, we recommend putting them away for a little while every day and getting the kids outside. By punctuating inside play with time spent outdoor in active and imaginative play, you are helping your kids grow and develop.
4. Outdoor play builds self-confidence and self-esteem
The challenges of climbing walls, slides, monkey bars and other swing set staples help kids practice risk assessment as they play. Overcoming emotional and physical obstacles gives them a sense of accomplishment and a boost to their self-esteem. These are important ingredients in a child’s developing independence. The open-ended nature of free play – especially outdoor play – provides opportunities for kids to make decisions, choose their own experiences and let their imaginations take off. It lets them know that they are in charge of their minds and boosts their ability to think beyond limitations.
5. Outdoor play brings families together
Think outdoor play is just for kids? Think again!
Playing outdoors with children not only provides grownups with all the benefits on this list, it also creates beautiful new memories for kids, parents, siblings and caretakers to share together. The unforgettable smell of spring, the squeak of the swing set and the thrill of plunging down twisting tube slides are all cherished parts of childhood, perfect for sharing.
Electronic toys can be fun, but at KidKraft, we believe there’s no substitute for a healthy, active imagination. So why are you still reading this blog? Get outside and make some memories!