These days, technology has made everything more convenient for us, including play. Children don’t have to leave their house as they have a wide assortment of video games and educational computer games to choose from, as well as educational toys that talk and move and as a result, we see a decrease in outdoor play. These advances can be great and very beneficial for a developing child; however, technology cannot replace what is most important- the real, natural experience.
The benefits of outdoor play on children:
Children need to engage in outdoor play to experience the smells, textures, sounds and movement of the world in order to help their nervous systems develop. Children need the natural sensory experiences to learn about the world, and how to react to and adapt to their surroundings. Sometimes children really want to stay inside to play video games and sleep, but when they do this they are deprived of these developmentally important, sensory-rich experiences.
The tactile sense, for example, is a very important sense as we need steady tactile stimulation to keep us organized, functioning and healthy. Tactile information helps to develop visual perception, motor planning, body awareness, social skills and emotional security, among others. The vestibular, proprioceptive, visual, and olfactory senses are very important as well, and children need to utilitze these in order to help the development of their gross and fine motor skills.
Some fun activities to stimulate children’s senses during outside play include:
- Splashing and playing in puddles
- Playing in the mud and making “mud pancakes”
- Picking flowers to make a wreathe, or to play “flower shop”
- Climbing trees
- Running around barefoot in the grass
- Playing in sand and making sand castles
- Swimming in a lake
- Riding a bike on a bumpy driveway outside
- Crunching dried leaves with your feet
- Raking leaves and jumping into the piles
- Making snow angels, snowmen, igloos, forts and having snowball fights in the winter
The benefits are many; one mother has even said that her “picky eater” child “is so much more willing to try new foods after he comes home from playing outside.” Children also need some time for relaxation and unstructured play to learn about the world and to help develop their imaginations. So go ahead, relax, and let your children go outside!
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!