Several years ago, a lovely friend of mine took a challenge. She decided that every day, she and her children would spend at least 3 hours outside. For a year.
Over the course of that year, she saw firsthand the physical, emotional and cognitive benefits of outdoor play in her children. Now, years later, that one-year outdoor challenge has grown into a whole new lifestyle that sees her family spending hours each day in nature.
Playing outdoors is fantastic for our children. It’s no secret that being outside does wonders for our children’s physical development and creativity. But did you know that outdoor play also benefits our children’s language and communication skills?
Below are just five of the countless benefits and skills that your child will develop from spending time playing outside. I’m sure they’ll have you running for the hat and sunscreen as you dash off to the park or step outside into the back yard!
1. Outdoor play provides limitless opportunities for children to exercise their thinking and problem solving abilities. Did you realise that we use language when we think, reason and solve problems? Working out how to fix the cubby house, or wondering where leaves come from requires the use of language. Deep-thinking will help your child practise their language skills and develop healthy internal thought patterns. They will use language to learn and integrate new ideas about the world around them into their knowledge base.
2. Outdoor play is a great way to practise social interaction. Time spent in the backyard, at the park or even on the beach gives opportunity for children to interact with other children or siblings. These interactions are vital in helping children practise their negotiation and social skills. They can learn from others and develop the language they need for success.
3. Outdoor play encourages children to use all of their senses. This gives children the opportunity to learn new descriptive words andphrases to describe what they can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. You can take the time outdoors to introduce your child to new adjectives and adverbs. Talk about onomatopoeic words (words that sound like a sound) such as ‘rustle, scurry, pop, scuffle’. You can even have a go at making up your own words to describe what you and your child experience!
4. Outdoor play gives you and your child time to unplug. When you’re out and about, think twice before handing over a device. There are so many opportunities to talk together about what you notice around you. You and your child will both be refreshed by some technology-free time and be ready to make the most of the time to chat. Developing conversation skills starts when you and your child take time to talk about things.
5. Outdoor play encourages imagination and pretend play. It frees our children to use new words, try out new styles of talking and take on the role of someone else in a wonderful imaginative game. Whether they are outside playing in a group or it’s just the two of you, encourage their world of make-believe and join them in it! Pretend play has a specific role in language development and needs to be encouraged whenever possible.
Have you tried consistent outdoor play with your children? Did you notice any of these benefits? I’d love to hear about your experiences!