Thursday, 22 January 2015
Over a year ago now we went to a nature play group which was held outdoors at the local park. It was a fantastic group because it encouraged parents and children to get outdoors no matter what the weather. It was often grey and drizzly but we put on our wellies and waterproofs and braved the weather.
There are some people who prefer not to go outside when the weather's bad but I think in England the weather is so unpredictable you really don't have a choice unless you want to stay indoors for months on end. I have to say I sometimes feel like these people, I look outside and see the clouds and think I'd rather just stay in the warm comfort of my own home. However, the children love to play outdoors no matter the weather, in fact, they relish splashing in puddles on a wet day and squelching through mud.
There are many benefits of outdoor play, aside from just getting a bit of fresh air. It is excellent for motor skill development. By running through a field, climbing a tree and actively exploring their environment they are developing their motor skills such as coordination, balance and flexibility as well as increasing their muscle strength.
A fascinating article exploring the health benefits of outdoor play mentions five main benefits; improved eye-sight, better social skills, increased attention span, reduction in stress and increased vitamin D. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that outdoor play increases intelligence! This is due to a bacteria found in soil, which can be ingested or inhaled during outdoor play, which has been found to increase learning as well as decrease anxiety.
So how can we increase outdoor play? What sort of things can we do outside? There are many things; go to the park, the beach or just out in the garden.
Play games outdoors such as cricket, football, hockey, cycling rounders...
Do some planting. If you have space in your garden, why not section a corner off for the children? Allow them to dig, plant things and learn how things grow and how to care for plants. Perhaps plant something edible so the children can eat what they have grown. Or make a fairy garden or dinosaur world out of shrubs, rocks, pools of water and sticks. The ideas are endless.
When it's hot enough play with water.
Make a den or put up a tent. My children particularly love to play in a pop up tent in the garden. They can create their own little hide out. They usually fill it with cushions, toys, books and snacks!
Play with sand.
Make a mud kitchen! Get some old pots and pans, let them make a mess and watch their imagination grow! It can be interesting to see what concoctions they come up with.
Go to the farm.
Do a treasure hunt in the garden using toys or things from nature.
Look around and discover the beauty of nature.
Use the natural resources all around you to create some wonderful nature arts and crafts. Here are a few things we have made:
A flower made out of leaves, a pipe cleaner and a short, hollowed out stick.
A crown made out of leaves stuck with double sided tape onto a piece of card.
A crown and magic wand!
It is my aim this year to spend far more time outdoors. I think we will all benefit from it. I hope to discover lots of interesting things to do outside and I hope to share them all with you! What do you like to do outside?