I’m a summer kind of person and over the cold months, if I don’t make a concerted effort to plan activities and play dates, I can get to dinner time without leaving the house. Not only do I then suffer through two boys going crazy with energy to burn, but also there’s a host of research to suggest they’re missing out vital development only nature can provide.
I want my boys to be connected to their environment but can’t imagine their upbringing will be like my childhood, hours spent bike riding, exploring, often unsupervised, and all outside. Aware of our children’s need to be active we join kinder gym, playgroups and frequent play centers, but is inside play just the same as outside play?
The consensus leans towards a resounding NO! Stated (beautifully) in the American Academy of paediatrics report ‘reconnecting kids with the outdoors’, “Play in an outdoor, natural environment allows children to explore both their world and their own minds.”
In fact, ’free range’ play outside has a host of benefits:
- Creatively it fosters imagination, curiosity and engages all the senses.
- Intellectually it develops problem solving skills and resourcefulness.
- Socially it helps children interact, negotiate, share, and find ways to overcome challenges.
- Emotionally it helps reduce stress, promotes self-confidence.
Climbing a tree might result in a few scratched knees but the process requires self-reliance, measuring risk and the payoff is a great sense of achievement. Jumping in puddles, making mud pies, helping in the garden and sliding down hills (on their bottoms) might make your inner clean freak cringe, but helps develop essential intellectual stimulation.
I’s not only great for children but for adults too who need outdoor time as well. A study by the University of Essex has shown just a small ‘ 5 minute dose’ of nature every day will benefit people’s mood, self-esteem and mental health.
So pack a picnic, grab warm jackets (or sunscreen- you never know what’s in store in Melbourne), Leave your phone in your pocket and join in the exploration. As they burn off energy using their outside voices to full potential, you can tap into your inner child, sharing this world with them, while achieving your five minutes of green exercise too!!
For something outdoor play idea for different ages visit
Stay healthy! Sharon