The outdoors is where children get to learn about the world around them. It is a place where children can run, explore, jump, shout, and burn off energy. By playing outdoors at a young age, children start to develop a respect for the environment. They learn to challenge themselves, take risks and develop an awareness of their skills.
Unfortunately in today’s society outdoor play is becoming replaced with TV, computer and other electronics. Health risks in children, such as obesity, are increasing due to children not getting enough excercise. Excercise through outdoor play is how children learn many of their gross motor skills such as balance and coordination and it is vital in helping build strong muscles and bones.
Besides the physical importance of outdoor play, social and emotional development is learned as well. When children are allowed unstructured play outside, they develop communication skills through social interaction with other children. Inventing games, making rules, and learning new games, teaches decision making, organizational skills and allows for cognitive growth.
Other factors that contribute to reduced outdoor time for children include the elimination of recess in public schools, both parents working full-time and therefore having less time to take children to the park, and, the safety concern for children playing outside without an adult.
Many children are involved in structured outdoor time such as soccer, baseball and other sports. Although this structured time is a physical benefit, the importance of unstructured outdoor play must never be underestimated and should be a large part of their childhood.
School aged children need to release energy after engaging in academic activity that requires concentration and focus. By allowing a child to release their energy through rigorous outdoor play, children are allowed to recharge their batteries and return to their academic studies with more positive energy. Physical activity is an essential component to academic learning.
Natural light and fresh air are vital to the immune system and they stimulate the brain to regulate emotions. This in turn reduces the chance of depression and helps to develop a positive emotional state.
Today's society is one of evolving technology. Children need to stay engaged and connected to the outdoor world through continues reinforcement. Learning to love the outdoors at a young age will lead to a love of outdoors for life.