Outdoor play is an important component of child development at all ages. From playing in the sandbox, riding bikes around the neighborhood to games of kickball were once rites of childhood passage. Currently, letting kids be kids and allowing them unstructured outdoor playtime is nearing a point of extinction. Technology, stranger danger, bullying, and environmental factors are a few of the reasons that the days of “go outside and play” and “be home by dinner or before dark” are a bygone era. Perhaps times have changed but children’s need for unsupervised play and connection to nature has not.
Unstructured play improves learning and social and physical development. Providing a variety of play options, improved play access and fewer restrictions can encourage children to engage in physical activity with peers in line with their imaginations.
This article includes several links that discuss that outdoor play habits versus indoor play have changed not only in the US but globally over the last several decades.
“Children have fewer opportunities to engage with nature. Providing more contact with nature can enhance children’s creativity, boost their mood, lower stress, improve well-being, promote physical activity and improve attention spans.
Nature play is also becoming more important as a counterbalance to children’s technological saturation. It is important for children to connect with nature early, as they are then likely to learn to appreciate nature into adulthood.”
Zier Institute focuses on play as the cornerstone in treatment when helping families achieve their highest potential physically, emotionally and socially. Regardless of age, we encourage families to practice the techniques we use in therapy in their everyday lives. Creating learning experiences in nature allows the child to take the lead and discover new interests on their own.
Parents can be nearby to support emotions, sensory experiences, and social interactions as needed. It is a joy to step back and witness growth and development when imagination, pretend play, and connection with nature occurs. There isn’t an easy answer to reverse the worldwide trajectory of children’s play but one by one, we can commit to outdoor playtime and let the sunshine in!