The BIG benefits of outdoor play for toddlers, preschoolers, and kids of all ages — plus, how to get kids to play outside every day! Sponsored by Little Tikes.
When I was a kid, I spent almost every weekend at my Granny and Grandad’s farm in the hills of West Virginia. Some of my best childhood memories are those of my cousins and I running around outdoors – building forts, riding horses, hiking, swinging on grapevines, and just being in nature.
I truly believe that being in nature made me into the person I am today, and I wanted my girls to have as much of that experience as possible. That’s one of the main reasons my husband and I moved our family to a home on 5 acres earlier this year.
However, much to my surprise, the first time my girls went out to explore the yard, they were less than enthused. I think one of them said something along the lines of, “eeeew…grass!”
Where had I failed as a parent that my kids didn’t want to play outside?!
What Are the Benefits of Outdoor Play?
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that children have a minimum of one hour of unstructured free play every day, and stresses the importance of physical activity.
However, a 2014 study found that kids and teens in the United States spend an average of 6-8 hours a day doing sedentary activities, such as watching television.
Outdoor play is crucial for both physical and emotional well-belling in children, and even one hour a day can have a lasting impact!
8 Benefits of Children Playing Outside
The following are some of the major benefits of outdoor play for kids, both body and mind:
Health Benefits of Outdoor Play
- Fosters an Active Lifestyle — Habits learned in childhood are often those that are carried on into adulthood. Active children are more likely to become active adults!
- Develops Gross Motor Skills — Running, jumping, climbing, and other aspects of outdoor play help kids develop gross motor abilities naturally. The more kids play, the more coordinated and strong they’ll become!
- Builds Hand-Eye Coordination — Outdoor play also helps kids fine-tune smaller movements that help with tasks like writing, drawing, playing sports, and more!
- Spatial Awareness — Learning about the space one’s body takes up is such an important skill, and there is no better way for kids to figure it out than through play.
Emotional Benefits of Outdoor Play
- Provides a Calming Effect — There is extensive research showing that exposure to nature and being outdoors lowers stress and increases emotional well-being in both children and adults. Life can be stressful for kids and time spent outdoors can help provide balance.
- Encourages Imagination — Unlike video games or television, where the story is dictated to a child, with outdoor play the child is in charge. Kids don’t need elaborate setups to have a good time — a playhouse like the LOL Surprise Play Cottage from Little Tikes can provide hours of fun!
- Grows Independence — So much of children’s lives are dictated TO them, from what to eat and what time to go to bed. However, in order for kids to learn the skills necessary to become self-sufficient adults, they need a safe space to practice making their own decisions. Unstructured outdoor play is the perfect way for kids to be the boss for a change!
- Builds Social Skills — One of the benefits of outdoor play for preschoolers, in particular, is developing social skills. Children at this age are often just beginning to learn about how to interact with others and what is socially appropriate behavior. Outdoor play provides the opportunity to practice skills like taking turns, sharing, and teamwork in an enjoyable setting.
How to Get Kids to Play Outside
With competition from video games, television, phones, tablets, computers, and the like, it can sometimes feel like a challenge to get kids outside to play!
Some of the ways we encourage our girls to play outside are by setting limits on screen time and providing outdoor toys that get them excited about getting active.
I grew up with Little Tikes toys, such as the Cozy Coupe. That iconic red and yellow car got at least a decade of heavy use in our driveway!
I always wanted a Little Tikes Play Cottage when I was a kid, so I knew my daughters would LOVE one! I mean, who wouldn’t love a big sparkly pink playhouse to make their own?!
Just as I expected, the girls couldn’t wait to open the giant boxes and build their new play cottage and Little Tikes First Slide. Fortunately, it only took about 10 minutes to assemble everything — which is crucial when you have three little girls waiting “patiently” to play with their new toys!
In total contrast from when we first moved to our new home in the country, now the girls ask to play outside every day! In fact, one of our toddler’s favorite words is “SIDE!!!” — which means, “I want to play outside!!”
Now the kids’ video games sit mostly unused, and I can’t say I’m too sad about that!
What I especially love is watching the three of them play together with minimal sisterly squabbles! Despite the ten-year age span among them they are able to create games that they ALL can enjoy — without my help or prompting!
Little Tikes toys are special in that they are something that a large age range can use, which is perfect for our family. They’re made in the USA and built to last, so I know my girls will use their Little Tikes Play Cottage and First Slide for years to come.
With classic toys that last for generations, it’s easy to see why Little Tikes has been parent trusted for over 50 years!
Little Tikes has the perfect toys to help families Play big! Click here to see them all!
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Last updated on December 16th, 2019 at 01:12 pm