Many of us may remember spending a huge amount of time outdoors as children. The freedom to play and explore nature in all of it’s glory. Most of my childhood memories revolve around my garden or the surrounding countryside. Children thrive outdoors. Spending lots of time outdoors can have so many benefits for children in the short and long-term.
Many parents find that parenting outdoors often seems to be less stressful than indoors. In the forefront of my mind is the phrase ‘children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls’. Some parents feel more tense on days that they’re not going out anywhere and the weather is too bad to play outside. But not only is it easier on parents, getting children out into nature has a wide range of benefits for them. Playing outdoors in nature has intellectual, social, emotional and physical benefits for children. It helps to build their brains, bodies and character for later life.
Mental Health benefits
A recent study has shown that children who grow up in an area with more green space around them are 55% less likely to develop mental health disorders later in life. There are also a number of studies which show that being outdoors can increase psychological and physical energy. This applies to adults and children alike. There are also studies that have found exposure to nature to be highly beneficial to children with ADHD or anxiety.
Being outdoors provides a different kind of freedom for children. There are fewer boundaries, the freedom to make more noise and move more, as well as so much to explore! It provides new ways to create, discover and problem-solve, like one big science lab. Activities such as digging in soil, watching bees collect pollen and jumping in puddles create many learning opportunities for children. They become so resourceful, finding opportunities for play that we might never consider as adults. A stick, a muddy puddle and some rocks can provide just as much entertainment as a box of building blocks!
Being outdoors also offers more opportunity for physical activity, which aids physical development, improves fitness and encourages a healthy lifestyle. Activities such as climbing trees and playing chase with friends benefit physical and social development. Children find new ways to interact with each other when they are outside in nature. The new sensory experiences can also aid the development of motor skills.
Nurturing a love of nature in children also has longer term benefits for all of us. Children are the future, and encouraging a love for nature and the environment early on will help to raise adults who are passionate about preserving our planet. The more children get to explore outdoors, the greater their love will be for nature, and the more they will want to protect the environment as they get older.
Our Little Pebbles Nature Walks on Tuesday mornings in Rock Park are the perfect way for children to explore nature. It is a completely free activity, guided by our play worker Emma who will arrange different nature-based activities each week. It’s also a great opportunity to meet other parents with children under 5.