It’s no secret that we love being outside with our children, and we’ve prioritized it more and more over the years. Recent studies show that, on average, American children spend about four to seven minutes outside per day engaged in unstructured play – a number that’s vastly lower than the average seven hours a child spends in front of varying screens. I’d hazard a guess that the amount of time kids spend in front of a screen is even more now than before because of the sheer volume of children engaged in remote education because of coronavirus. Our children benefit from playing outside, and we’ve noticed that the more time they have for unstructured play, the happier and more content they are.
It’s not always easy; I’ll be honest. Some days the rain is just too much, and we just don’t want to do anything because, yes, outdoor play requires us – at this age, at least – to be involved and present when it would be easier to simply let a screen parent for us. But we have noticed that our children reap so many benefits from playing outside, and I wanted to share some of those today.
How Our Children Benefit From Playing Outside
1 // It encourages emotional involvement
Outdoor play encourages are children to become invested in their surroundings that they might otherwise completely tune out. They explore, run, see, do, and invent worlds while they play and, more often than not, they play with others which encourages the social side of things, as well. Most of all, this type of outdoor play helps improve their overall emotional investment in any given activity.
2 // It increases their attention span
We’ve noticed that the more our children play and explore outside, the more curious they become. Instead of simply accepting things, they ask questions, they roll up their sleeves, and they tend to become more involved in different activities for longer. The boys will happily revert to a naturally curious state the longer they’re outside, and we love seeing what they do with that freedom.
3 // It build healthier bodies and minds
No, outdoor play doesn’t mean our children will become more athletic, but being outside, and removing those physical walls encourage them to run, climb, swing, jump, and move their bodies in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. We’ve seen Spencer and Porter go faster on their bikes and their feet, they’ve learned to crawl and duck, and their hiking has improved enormously as their bodies build that muscle memory.
4 // It teaches our children to respect our environment
When we first started hiking with our kids, they didn’t notice the trash on the trails. Now, after a full year of hiking and adventuring, our kids notice how popular trails (like Naches Peak Loop Trail) have been impacted by humans. They’re also more apt to notice wildlife, show an interest, and have an appreciation for these wild adventures.
5 // It encourages risky play
I’ve spoken a little bit about why we love risky play and why we encourage our children to engage in it. We believe risky play encourages them to make and take calculated risks, learn through trial and error, and grow from their mistakes. The more time they have outside to experience these things, the more comfortable they become doing things slightly outside of their comfort zone, which encourages growth.
Tell me – what sort of benefits have you seen from outdoor play?