Dr. Kari is an Occupational Therapist and Certified Transformational Parenting Coach. She loves following her heart and helping others do the same, especially when it comes to changing the way we parent the next generation of leaders and learners.
We all may notice how a bit of fresh air and outdoor time can make us feel better. We also know that play is beneficial for kids - it’s the main way they learn! In childhood, “play” is actually children’s “work.” Let’s talk about 5 benefits of outdoor play!
1: Outdoor Play Increases Sensory Processing Skills
Playing outside involves not only moving one’s body - which increases proprioceptive (knowing where your body is in space) and vestibular (balance and movement) sensory inputs, but it also involves lots of auditory (hearing) and visual (sight) processing! Using all of our different senses in tandem is like brain gymnastics for a young child. It’s a way to help the brain organize itself and understand how their own bodies work and how the world around them impacts how they move, hear, and see. Not to mention all the temperatures and textures for touch - there is so much to feel. From dirt, to hard playground equipment, to grainy sand and rough leaves or twigs - there is a never-ending supply of tactile (touch) sensory input too!
2: Outdoor Play Promotes Imagination + Creativity
Children playing outside often enjoy an abundance of ‘pretend’ play which strengthens their imagination. From being chased, to exploring new lands, to solving mysteries… you never know what you may get into outside!
3: Outdoor Play Grows Problem Solving Abilities
Problem solving, one of the components of executive functioning, is strengthened through outdoor play. Children may have to solve problems about how to arrange items in a tower, or how far they need to step to get across an obstacle. They may also learn about the physics of objects and how they move when they roll something down a slope or over bumps!
4: Outdoor Play Enhances Social Play
Coordinating with, compromising with, and enjoying time with friends is a huge benefit of outside time. Children are engaging in all of the above (sensory skill building, imaginative play, and problem solving) TOGETHER! Plus, this means that sensory input, imagination, creativity, and problem solving opportunities multiply when multiple children are together!
5: Outdoor Play Increases Health
Unstructured physical activity means lots of movement, and lots of movement means strong bodies as well as increased mental health for kids.
When it comes to playtime, it’s hard to beat the benefits of Outdoor Play! We’d love to hear about your favorite outdoor activity - let us know your favorite way to play outside!