Advances in technology have brought many benefits to our lives and devices such as tablets and computers have become genuinely useful and valuable educational tools for both children and adults. For example, playing age-appropriate games can help to develop hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. At the same time, it’s still hugely important for children to have outdoor play time. Here are four reasons why.
It promotes physical health and mental wellness
Physical activity does more than just burn off calories, it actually helps the body to develop strong bones and muscles and a general level of physical fitness. The better our overall fitness, the healthier we are likely to be overall. In addition to its physical benefits, outdoor play also promotes mental wellness. At its most basic level, outdoor play gives children an opportunity to let off steam, with the result that they feel calmer and more focused afterwards, in much the same way as adults often feel an improvement in their mood after exercise sessions.
It provides an open environment for children to express themselves
Outdoor spaces tend to be significantly bigger than rooms indoors. This means that children who prefer solitude, either on a particular occasion or in general, will probably find it easier to find a quiet place for themselves, while children who wish to interact with each other have plenty of space for their games and hence have more scope for creativity in developing them. Even outdoor spaces which are intended for general use, such as parks and fields, offer children plenty of opportunities to use their imaginations. Dedicated outdoor play areas, with appropriate play equipment can really stimulate children and encourage their development.
It provides a different learning experience
The concept of learning through play has been recognized for many years now and is generally integrated into the classroom environment whenever possible. Outside the classroom, the idea of learning through play can be continued in the home, by means of books, educational toys and games and increasingly through technology. Outdoor learning, however, takes place in a completely different learning environment and hence provides a very different learning experience. The element of physicality pushes children a little further and rewards them with a great sense of achievement when they reach a goal, whatever it may be.
It helps children to gain independence
Outdoor spaces and, in particular, well-designed outdoor play areas, encourage children to explore and hence to expand their mental boundaries, all within safe limits. Children learn the basics of risk assessment by considering how likely they are to succeed with any given game or obstacle. Those who start off by being nervous soon begin to discover that they can do more than they thought and begin to expand their horizons. Those who are overconfident may find themselves coming down with a bump, literally, but outdoor play areas are designed so that it is practically impossible for children to hurt themselves and they will soon pick themselves up and start playing again. In this way, children learn to recognize their safe boundaries and work to expand them and hence to gain independence in a safe way.
Andy Swain is the Managing Director of SAS Shelters, a family-run business specialising in the design, manufacture and installation of a variety of products for schools including school canopies, shelters, walkways and playground shades.