As the days get longer, I see more and more families venturing outdoors to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine and the spring weather. After a long winter, it’s a fantastic feeling to take off your coat and to switch from boots to shoes for outdoor play in the sunshine!
Playing outside has so many benefits for children, especially when we allow children to be exposed to self-directed play in natural environments – including risky play. According to the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, risky play means ‘the types of play children see as thrilling and exciting, where the possibility of physical injury may exist, but they can recognize and evaluate challenges according to their own ability” (see their position statement on Active Outdoor Play). This doesn’t mean putting children in dangerous situations, but allowing children the freedom to explore and navigate outdoor environments (without hovering over them yelling ‘careful!’ every few steps!).
While playing outdoors has many benefits on a child’s physical health and development, there are also many social and emotional benefits of outdoor play, especially play in natural spaces. These benefits include building confidence, solving problems, learning personal limits, building interpersonal skills with peers, and reducing feelings of isolation and stress.
While it’s important to play outdoors all year long, it gets easier to get outdoors in the spring with the longer days and warmer weather. So encourage your kids to play in the dirt, explore your neighbourhood, climb trees, go for walks in the forest, check out ponds, and take every opportunity to help kids be healthy, active, and outdoors as much as possible.
Have fun and I’ll see you out there!
For more information on the evidence supporting active outdoor play, visit: https://bit.ly/2GibAo4
Photo credit: Joanna Vidad