Studies have shown that a small child needs a minimum of 15 minutes outside play each day. As a mom of a busy little boy I personally find that 15 minutes would be way too short a time for him to get all his energy out but now that we live in a flat and especially during the very windy or rainy days, we do try to get at least those 15-30minutes outdoor play in during our day.
Why is outdoor play important?
Playing outdoors has many benefits for children (and adults) some of them include :
- Vitamin D – Often referred to as the sunshine vitamin as the sun is the best source of vitamin D , being outside helps your child get the vitamin D needed to promote calcium intake to grow their bones and help their bodies to develop.
- Gross motor skills – outdoor play promotes gross motor skills and gives a child wide open spaces to exert themselves.
- Fitness- being outdoors promotes a healthier lifestyle and encourages your child to boost their fitness level.
- Knowledge – Being outside is a great way for your child to understand and explore the world around them. Being outdoors will naturally encourage them to discover and explore, promoting a love of learning and developing their natural curiosity. It will also encourage them to use all their senses as they investigate their surrounding.
How to get your child outdoors more often
Now that we know the benefits of taking our children outdoors to play, here are some fun ways to get outside for some quick play time with your toddler.
When headed outside, check the weather. Often times, as in Cape Town we can have four seasons in one day, I will pack a warmer or cooler set of clothing in a bag to take with. if it is slightly drizzling, you can add a raincoat and some wellington boots for some fun running in the rain or if you are heading to the beach pack in a costume and towel. Be careful of your child over heating if they are dressed warmly. When we exercise our bodies get warm and if dressed too warmly your child may over heat.
Keeping hydrated is very important, even if you are only outside for a short while, your child will be exerting themselves through play so always offer them a bottle of water or juice after or during play.
Let outdoor play be natural
Introduce outdoor play as a natural part of your daily routine, this way your child learns to enjoy being outside and sees it as a natural thing to do.
Indulge in your child’s interests
Indulge in your child’s interests and encourage their discovery. If your child likes flowers, plant a garden. If they love bugs, go on a bug hunt. Find them a strong tree to climb if they enjoy climbing or help them to make mud pies, build pretend roads or look for imaginary fairies under mushrooms.
Go for a walk
Often if the day has been busy or Hamish has been extra busy that day we stop what we are doing and go for a little walk. These need not be long and can include looking for flowers, spotting birds, counting cars, identifying colours and numbers and learning road signs. you could take a scooter or bike with you to exercise those gross motor muscle. Often even the shortest walk is enough to refocus and break the monotony of the day.
Go for a run
One of our favourite ways to get outside as a family was to join a park run. (Pre-coivid) Running gets your endorphins flowing and is good for you. Take a ball, hula hoop, skipping rope or cricket set outside and get running.
Make it fun
Never let your child feel like being outdoors is a negative experience or a chore as this will affect their fitness levels as they are older.
Some fun activities you could try with your children are ;
- wash the car together
- take paints outdoors and paint rocks
- have an outdoor picnic
- go on a scavanger hunt
- join a beach clean up
- spend time planting a garden
- build a fort in the yard
- fly a kite
- play a game like cricket, baseball or rounders
- kick a ball
- play in sand or mud
- add a container of water
- use water guns or water balloons
- play with some toys in the shade
- play in a paddling pool
- search for insects, butterflies and frogs
Which ever way you choose to enjoy the outdoors always make it fun. Setting a positive example to our children now will help them enjoy keeping fit and healthy as adults.