We all know that it is vital for children to play and that most consider a child’s play their work but do we really know the physical, social, cognitive, emotional, group interactions, playing alone and brain and skill development benefits of outdoor play? Below are some of the most important points in each of the developmental areas.
Research shows outdoor play is much more than just fun, it’s necessary to help kids be physically fit and healthy. When children are playing outdoors, they are developing their reflexes and movement control, developing fine and gross motor skills and increasing flexibility and balancing skills. In addition, when kids are involved in physical activity, they’re building stronger muscles and improving bone density, improving heart and lung function and preventing obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Children love the playground for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons they look forward to play is because it gives them a chance to visit with friends outside of school, meet new peers and play fun and imaginary games that they might not be able to play at home.
But there is much more to these outdoor play interactions than meets the eye. In reality, the playground is a complex social network where children learn valuable everyday life lessons about interacting with others, social norms and independence, all while gaining important relationship-building skills.
Not only can you see the physical benefits of outdoor play but there are also emotional benefits to outdoor play. Free play has an important role to a child’s emotional growth, and research has pointed to three areas where play helps children develop emotionally: building self-confidence and esteem; experimenting with various emotions; and releasing emotions from trauma.
Group play is where children learn social roles and cultural rules, develop the appropriate cooperation skills and familiarize themselves with verbal and body language. Group play isn’t just children having fun with one another—it’s teaching them about real-life relationships. When children develop and test relationships, they learn self-control and negotiation skills. They also learn independence and acceptable group activities to build on as they grow up. Group play helps children prepare for a lifetime of interacting with others.
Some may think that playing alone encourages children to shy away from others but in reality, solitary play helps kids socially, as it develops a strong sense of independence, promotes creativity and imagination and alleviates boredom when they devise their own entertainment. When a child plays alone on the playground, they can also learn social cues by observing other kids’ interactions without being part of them.
Brain and Skill Development:
Play helps children develop language and reasoning skills, encourages autonomous thinking and problem solving as well as helps improve their ability to focus and control their behavior. Play also allows children to develop verbal and manipulative skills, judgment and reasoning and creativity. Play also teaches children about consequences and risk, which helps them in decision making as they grow up. Children learn and practice many of the skills they will need as adults because of free play.