Why Outdoor Activities Are Beneficial for Preschoolers
In today’s technology- and information-focused era, preschoolers are spending less time outside and often engage in activities and socialization through computers and the internet. Further worsened by the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, with many schools and recreational activities closed or limited in capacity, preschoolers have had fewer opportunities to participate in outdoor activities. With the opening of schools and the easing of restrictions, is it important for preschoolers to go outside and gain the benefits of outdoor play.
Outdoor play offers many benefits that indoor play cannot replicate. Experiencing fresh air, natural light, and new environments during outdoor play is good for the growth and well-being of preschoolers. Outdoor play also allows preschoolers to engage in physical activity and explore their surroundings, which can help them develop essential motor skills.
While technology has allowed recreational and social activities to be comfortable, safe, and convenient, parents should let their preschoolers experience and engage in outdoor play to help in their growth and development.
Playing Outside is Important for Physical Development
Preschoolers have more room to engage in physical activity when playing outside, which encourages growth and helps build up their bodies in their most formative years. Mere exposure to the natural environment can also help preschoolers build their immunity, develop stronger bones, and even improve eyesight.
The following are long-term benefits seen in preschoolers who spend more time outside than their peers:
1. Increase in Physical Activity
Outdoor play often involves preschoolers in activities that train and exercise the body, such as running, jumping, climbing, and throwing. This acclimates the body to movement and can help build habits that last well into adulthood. Encouraging preschoolers to play outside and engage in physical activity can help establish healthy habits that can last a lifetime. By doing so, parents and caregivers can set preschoolers on a path to lifelong physical health and well-being.
2. Stronger Bones and Muscles
Physical activity is very strenuous and trains the bones and muscles which can help in their development especially at a young age. Climbing playground equipment or playing tag for example, helps build the arm and leg muscles. Exposure to sunlight while outdoors also supports the production of Vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones and teeth.
3. Better Endurance and Stamina
Many outdoor games, such as tag and hopscotch, involve cardio or aerobic exercise. These games or activities are good for cardiovascular health and help improve endurance and stamina. Preschoolers that engage in outdoor play often expend bursts of energy that can build up into better overall stamina. The natural environment itself is also conducive to better fitness, as having to navigate over uneven terrain and other obstacles is helpful for energy growth and development.
4. Promotes Healthy Weight
Playing outdoor games or engaging in physical activity promotes an active lifestyle. Regularly moving the body and expending energy provide preschoolers with opportunities to burn calories and increase their heart rate. Physical strain also increases appetite in preschoolers, encouraging them to eat more healthy foods and maintain a balanced diet. Finally, by going outside, preschoolers also avoid being sedentary, which can lead to obesity and the formation of bad habits.
5. Trains Gross and Fine Motor Skills
Outdoor play is a great way to train the fine and gross motor skills of preschoolers. Ball games such as football or basketball involve the use of large muscle groups in the arms and legs. This can develop and improve balance, coordination, and spatial awareness. Playing with small toys involves the use of small muscle groups in the hands and fingers and can develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills such as grasping and releasing.
Outdoor Play is Good for Socialization
Playing outside often involves social games that have many participants, which can promote the social skills of preschoolers. Games such as tag or football require teamwork, communication, and cooperation, which can help preschoolers develop social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and respecting others.
Preschoolers may also acquire and enhance communication and conflict-resolution skills through outdoor play, organized games that have a set of rules and require cooperation often provide preschoolers the opportunity to develop an understanding of another person’s perspective and feelings which can help them resolve problems in a constructive manner. Other games such as playing pretend or playing house also further stimulate the imagination and cooperation skills of preschoolers, as such games often have them adopt various roles with a set of responsibilities.
Positive social modeling opportunities could also be found during outdoor play. Preschoolers are more inclined to emulate their peers’ good social skills and imitate them themselves when they observe them sharing, cooperating, and assisting one another. This also trains their ability to read and interpret social cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, allowing preschoolers to better build an understanding of the needs and emotions of others.
Outdoor play are also events for social interaction, meeting new people, and making friendships, preschoolers can meet new people and widen their understanding and empathy towards others.
Finally, preschoolers can build on a sense of collective achievement or accomplishment when engaging in team games, building on not only just consideration of themselves and others but also of the group as a whole.
Outdoor Play Stimulates Cognitive Skills and Creativity
Developing cognitive skills requires stimulating activity that challenges the mind and imagination. Here are some examples on how outdoor play can benefit the growth of preschoolers’ cognitive skills:
Outdoor play often involves challenges and obstacles that require problem-solving skills. In a playground for example, overcoming obstacles require preschoolers to figure out how to navigate them. Playgrounds, uneven terrain, or even the natural environment offer challenges that stimulate thought and require preschoolers to utilize resourcefulness and critical-thinking skills. In other outdoor games such as hide and seek, preschoolers train their logical deduction and observation skills.
2. Spatial Awareness
As preschoolers run, jump, and climb in play, they develop their spatial awareness and presence in the physical environment. Having to navigate obstacles or the natural environment is helpful for preschoolers to develop a sense of their bodies in space as well as a general awareness of their surroundings. By navigating with hills, rocks, trees, and playground equipment preschoolers develop spatial awareness and an understanding of the layout of the world around them.
3. Executive Function
Executive function refers to the cognitive processes that help preschoolers plan, focus, and regulate their behavior. Outdoor games that are organized and require them to follow a set of rules allow preschoolers to acquire and hone these skills. Later in life this is useful for the development of self-regulation and impulse control, which is very important for academic success.
Games such as hide and seek, house, or just generally playing pretend stimulate the mind and develop the preschooler’s creativity. Outdoor games provide many opportunities for preschoolers to think outside of the box or be imaginative. The natural environment and surroundings itself can be a source of creativity and curiosity for preschoolers, natural materials such as sticks, rocks, leaves, and flowers can be a source of fascination or creativity inspiration in games or imagination or pretend.
5. Nature Exploration
In addition to encouraging curiosity and creativity, outdoor play can give preschoolers the chance to explore the natural world. Preschoolers who are observing their surroundings and the organisms that live there may have questions and utilize critical thinking to make sense of what they are experiencing. Exploring the natural environment allows preschoolers to acquire new experiences, learn new things, and foster a desire for knowledge and understanding of their surroundings.
Outdoor Play Fosters Emotional Development and Maturity
Preschoolers can develop their emotions and maturity better in an outside environment, the following are some of the reasons why:
1. Improves Mood
Outdoor play exposes preschoolers to natural light and fresh air, which helps the body regulate serotonin and leads to less stress and a happier mood. Preschoolers can also exercise while playing games and experience a sense of accomplishment, which improves their happiness and self-esteem. Finally, outdoor games provide an opportunity for preschoolers to interact with their friends and learn social skills like sharing, taking turns, and communication through outdoor play. Positive social connection can improve mood, enjoyment, and sense of belonging.
2. Provides Sensory Stimulation
Being outside can engage the senses in a variety of ways. Preschoolers, for instance, can observe many hues, forms, and patterns in nature that they might not find indoors. They can hear insects buzzing, leaves rustling, and birds chirping. They are able to detect the scent of flowers, recently cut grass, and rained-on earth. They can detect the sensation of grass, mud, and tree bark. Preschoolers can benefit from all of these sensory stimulations.
In addition to these sensory advantages, being in nature can help youngsters relax. According to studies, exposing kids to natural environments can help them feel less stressed and anxious. They may feel happier and more contented as a result, which might lift their spirits.
3. Encourages Social Interaction
Preschoolers must collaborate as a team or group in order to participate in many outdoor activities, such as playing soccer or tag. These activities can teach kids how to interact with others and work together to accomplish a common objective. Unstructured play, which occurs frequently during outdoor play, enables kids to create their own set of rules and regulations for themselves. Preschoolers may be encouraged to compromise, bargain, and take turns as a result. These abilities can be applied to many social circumstances in their daily lives. During outdoor play, preschoolers often encounter other preschoolers from different backgrounds or ages. This can help them develop empathy, understanding, and respect for others who are different from them.
4. Exposure to Nature
Preschoolers may learn about the environment in a fun and engaging way by playing outside and experiencing nature. Preschoolers can enjoy outside play as well as outdoor natural activities like planting seeds, digging in the dirt, and watching insects. These activities can help preschoolers learn more about the environment and develop a deeper appreciation for its complexity and beauty. Through outdoor play, preschoolers can teach themselves about the seasons’ cyclical nature, the growth and decay of plants, and the life cycles of animals. By observing these natural cycles, preschoolers can understand and appreciate how all living things are interconnected.
5. Builds Self-Confidence
Preschoolers can develop their self-confidence through outdoor play. Preschoolers can learn new skills like biking, tossing a ball, or climbing trees while engaging in outdoor play. Preschoolers gain confidence in their skills and feel more capable as they do these tasks effectively. Preschoolers frequently face obstacles while playing outside. These difficulties, whether they include completing an obstacle course or scaling a rock wall, can help kids build resilience, problem-solving abilities, and a sense of accomplishment. Preschoolers might feel free and adventurous when playing outside. Since they may move around freely and explore their surroundings, they may feel more daring and eager to take chances.
Preschoolers’ physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development depends on outside play. While playing outside, preschoolers have the ability to discover their surroundings, develop their physical abilities, and build relationships with their friends. Additionally, through fostering a sense of connection to nature, reducing stress, and fostering relaxation, outdoor play can improve preschoolers’ emotional health.
Preschoolers should be given opportunities to play outside, support their discovery and creativity, and be encouraged to engage in physical activity and social connection. As a parent, it is crucial to prioritize outdoor play for your preschooler. This can include things like visiting parks, taking nature hikes, playing in the backyard, or taking part in organized sports and activities. Your preschooler can become a healthy, well-rounded, and socially adept person by receiving enough of outside playtime.
Preschoolers’ outdoor play is crucial to their development and should be encouraged by parents, carers, and educators. Preschoolers can become healthy, happy, curious, socially adept adults with a strong respect and connection to nature if we give them opportunity to play outdoors.