Spring has arrived, and so have vaccines. If your kids are like most, they are probably chomping at the bit for some active, outdoor playtime, and they soon won’t have to worry so much about restrictions.
There are more reasons for parents to rejoice — the return to spending time in the fresh air and sunshine benefits your child in multiple ways. Here’s why outdoor play is the key to your kiddo’s success.
1. It Frees Their Imagination
Look around you at all the things created by human hands — like the screen you’re using to read right now. These developments once started as nothing more than an idea, a creative spark brought to life through a lot of hard work.
How can you foster such innovation in your children? Letting them play outside gives them a chance to invent games, make up rules and limits and decide what’s fair and not. It encourages them to mentally transform your split-rail fence into a pony and a pile of snow into a fort.
This innovative ability will benefit your child when they enter the workforce. Employers value those team members who can identify a need or concern and develop a creative approach to addressing it.
2. It Fosters Cognitive Development
How do your children learn how to solve problems? Structured activities teach valuable skills, but they also encourage adults to intervene when youth start to struggle. Sometimes, it’s better to let your kiddo figure things out for themselves.
Unstructured play offers the ideal opportunity. If your little one can’t figure out how to get their sandcastle to work, don’t step in right away to help. Let them puzzle out the problem — you foster their innovation and cognitive development.
You also allow them to develop emotional intelligence to pair with their new skill. Your child learns to safely deal with feelings like frustration and disappointment and develops healthy coping mechanisms, such as taking a break before going back to the drawing board.
3. It Helps Muscle and Bone Development
Gym class is fun for many children, and you can even get your kiddos into practices like yoga. However, if you want to encourage muscle and bone development, unstructured outdoor playtime is the path of least resistance. Most children naturally adore running, skipping, and jumping.
When you take your kids to the playground, why not get in on the fun with them? Do a few bench jumps instead of sitting and watching them play or kick up your feet and scurry across the monkey bars.
4. It Teaches Teamwork
Any parent of more than one child knows that forcing kids to get along doesn’t always work out as intended. However, unstructured outdoor play gives children natural incentives to cooperate
You can’t play so much as a simple game of tag without everyone agreeing to the same rules. When kids decide to tackle a more complex task, like building a treehouse, you can watch as they divvy up the work and assign roles based upon individual skill sets.
5. It Makes Kids More Resilient
As a parent, you want to protect your children from harm. However, you can’t safeguard them from all of life’s ups and downs. How your children react to hardship will prove key to their future success. You don’t want them to give up in despair or expect others to manage every challenging task for them.
Unstructured outdoor playtime helps your child develop positive self-care skills, like taking a break and having a snack when they grow overwhelmed. Learning how to soothe themselves will increase their emotional intelligence and make them healthier adults.
6. It Develops a Sense of Agency
The world may never know how many brilliant ideas never saw the light of day merely because the person who thought of them didn’t feel qualified to bring them to fruition. Learned helplessness results when a child repeatedly encounters dangers they cannot escape, so they shut down and retreat into themselves. A much milder form of this phenomenon occurs when kids hear “no” and “not that way” too frequently. Outdoor play lets your child make mistakes — and learn from them — instead of waiting for your correction.
Unstructured outdoor play allows your child to develop a sense of agency. If they decide that they want to build a crayfish corral with rocks in the playground creek, they don’t have to wait for permission from the park zoning authority. If they decide to test how fast they can dash across the soccer field or climb up a rope bridge, there’s no teacher to scold them about staying in their seat.
Outdoor Play is the Key to Your Kiddo’s Success
Childhood television icon Fred Rogers once described play as the work of childhood. The reasons above highlight why unstructured outdoor playtime is the key to your kiddo’s future success.
This content is brought to you by Wahab Ullah.