The benefits of outdoor play for young children

Playing outdoors brings many new opportunities for children of a young age, allowing them to explore the outdoors and use their imagination whilst playing and also use their own initiative. It also helps to keep them active, ensuring that they stay fit and healthy, using their bones and muscle to help aid their physical development.

Playing outside also allows children to feel comfortable in the environment that they are in, giving them a sense of freedom to have fun, allowing them to push new boundaries and experience things that they could never do indoors.

As they are outside enjoying what they are doing and discovering new things, they are able to absorb more information because they are doing things in their own time and finding their own feet. They also have a higher level of interaction and motivation to learn new things, enhancing their view on education and helping them to learn more in their early years.

Working and playing outdoors also helps to bring the children out of their shells more, as they feel they have the freedom to apply themselves a bit more, showing a new side to them that wouldn’t be seen in the classroom. The indoors may affect certain children as some may not like that particular environment, leading them to be aggressive or shy, and not truly reflecting who they really are and what they are capable of producing. The outdoors may also encourage them to interact with others more, as talking, playing and learning in an environment more suited to them could bring out their best.

Health benefits

Young children are encouraged to exercise when they are young, to prevent obesity at an early age. It also has other physiological health benefits such as improving muscle, increasing cardiovascular capabilities and also strengthening bones. These can be helped by walking, running, jumping, digging and climbing. Outdoor play also helps to develop a child mentally, specifically by developing their emotions and behaviours, whilst testing themselves in the company of other children.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of children suffering from rickets, due to a lack of vitamin D in their body. This can be prevented by playing in the sun, as having exposure to the sun will give them the amount of vitamin D that they need before it is too late.

First years learning

Within schools and nurseries, there is a curriculum that is used for children between 0 and 5 years that contains seven groups for the development and learning of the children. The three main areas are Physical Development, Language and Communication and Social, Emotional and Personal Development. There are also four main specific areas including the way in which they understand the world, literacy, mathematical development and expressive arts and design.

In their early years, children learn by interacting with friends and classmates, including negotiating things such as sharing and taking turns. This helps to improve their co-operation skills because they communicate with each other in order to play together and have fun, to suit what they enjoy doing the most. If the children experience new things and experience them with their friends, they are likely to communicate more and come out of their shell, enhancing their personal development. This is because being outside and having the free time to be with their friends allows them to talk more and have the freedom to express themselves. It is also important to create a positive environment for the children, so that they can feel more comfortable and will become more confident in expressing themselves and communicating, especially when in similar environments.

For the main specific areas within the school curriculum, using the outdoors as a tool to help children develop is extremely effective. They can develop their understanding of the world by searching and exploring, finding new things and seeing the world through their own eyes. They can also develop their mathematical skills by using real natural objects like leaves and stones, or even walking set distances. Literacy skills can be developed by singing songs, discussing experiences and listening to their friends. This part of the curriculum also helps to determine how they learn best, so that future teachers can plan lessons and subjects to a suit a variety of people, ensuring that they can teach everybody in a fair way.

Active learning

If children are engaged and involved in what is happening around them then they are benefitting from actively learning outdoors amongst their friends. It means that they are able to learn in their own way, doing their own thing and being educated in a way that they feel comfortable. Also, if they are being active within the learning environment then they are also building confidence in themselves and in what they are doing.

The outdoors offers endless opportunities for learning, as it provides them with an environment that they can make mistakes and learn from them, with no particular right or wrong way to learn, introducing resilience as a way to achieve things even at such a young age. They are able set out to do something, and achieve it in their own time and by doing it how they see fit, giving them a sense of pride and fulfilment.

As there are many opportunities that come with the outdoors, children can use their imagination to play and to learn, improving how they look at things and how they solve problems. This enhances their problem solving skills, which are beneficial to the children, allowing them to understand the consequences of their actions, so that they can improve for the next time they do something similar. Basic problem solving tasks will help them to learn in a positive way and will help to improve their level of education as they could potentially be more switched on and have improved concentration