As spring is arriving after the long dark winter, it is natural for most of us to be wanting to spend more time outside in the sunshine. Outdoor play comes with loads of benefits to the whole family, both psychically and mentally. Generally, children are happy to play outside no matter the weather and growing up in Sweden we always got to hear “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes!”. The saying is very true but it helps caretakers to feel motivated to play outside when it is warmer and drier. On the flip side, kids are feeling more motivated to follow you on longer walks if it is made exciting, for example by bringing a picnic, a car for kids to drive, or why not both?
Physical benefits of outdoor play
Gross motor skills
Think about the cows, what are they like when they finally get to go out after a whole winter locked inside? They jump, run and dance, maybe not dance but you get the picture. It is the same with our kids! The only difference is that they feel this way after only a few hours in the house. How often do you have to tell them to stop climbing on the sofa, stop running like elephants through the house or please use your inside voice!
They thrive outdoors where they are allowed to shout, run and climb because this is what their bodies need to develop. This makes them stronger, more confident and improves their body awareness! Sure, they will fall now and then but they will learn to be more observant of obstacles that could trip them up! At the end of the day, kids will be kids, and sometimes it is just nice for adults to get a break from them being kids indoors!
Fine motor skills
Kids love to pick and collect rocks, sticks, pine cones and leaves. You could assist their fine motor skills development by coming up with uses for these collectables. They could for example use the sticks to make a little mini den or they could paint the rocks or why not see how high they can build a rock tower!. Their fine motor skills can also be developed when they use chalk to draw on the ground.
Kids riding cars come with great opportunities for children to work on their fine motor skills. Entering and turning the key to start it, buckling and unbuckling their seat belt and they also have to move the stick up and down just like in a real car with an automatic gearbox.
Exercise is something that comes naturally to most kids and the possibilities are so much greater outdoors where there is more space to move around in. Even if they move around a lot inside too, they are more likely to get more intense exercise when running or climbing out in the open. It should be pointed out that some kids might need more encouragement, which they could get from playing with siblings, friends and, as we talk about in a previous blog, kids benefit hugely from having adults playing with them.
Health benefits to kids and adults from being outdoor
We have all grown up hearing how good it is for us to get some fresh air but this is not the only health benefit. In the past couple of years, there has been an increased focus on the importance of sleep and what we can do to improve our mental health. Spending more time outside has also the added benefit of increased Vitamin D intake.
As it is more common than many think, to have children that do not sleep through the night until they are much older, you might find it interesting to know that spending more time outside could improve their night-time sleep. Making sure that the kids are getting plenty of sun and exposure to daylight, allows their melatonin (sleep hormone) levels to be in sync with nature. As mentioned earlier, kids are more likely to use up a lot more energy when they are outside and therefore this will also assist them in their sleep.
Our bodies produce Vitamin D when they are exposed to direct sunlight, which is crucial for our uptake of calcium. We need calcium to keep our bones and teeth healthy. In the UK we generally get enough sunlight from April till September as long as we spend time outside! But during the winter months, we might need to take supplements as it is only a limited amount of food that provides us with vitamin D. It is only in recent years that the importance of Vitamin D has been recognised, to the extent that breastfed babies now also need a vitamin D supplement.
As we mention in another Blog, keeping the kids protected by using sunscreen, sunshades breathable clothes, is important. Although sunscreen blocks the skin from the uptake of Vitamin D, it is strongly advised by the NHS, that children between 6 months and 5 years stay in the shade between 11 am and 3 pm and wear at least SPF15 sunscreen.
Why not take the kids out on a forest drive in their car for children, thanks to the shade from the trees they are not getting constant exposure to sunlight but will still be getting some vitamin D through.
This is a topic that has been widely discussed recently where people are feeling more confident to share their struggles with their mental health. There is increased stress, more pressure and less of a work-life balance in our society today. Sadly, this is not only affecting adults.
The benefits of being outdoors to our mental health are so underestimated! Sunlight is thought to increase serotonin, which is thought to regulate mood, emotions and appetite. As mentioned by Heartmindonline.org, studies have shown that spending time in nature reduces levels of anxiety and kids’ feelings of stress.
There is a calmness, a feeling of serenity when you are out in nature, watching animals or insects, or listening to the soft wind in the trees all while feeling the sun hitting you. It is easy to see how this will improve your well-being and allow you to reset. Again, take your kids on a long drive in their electric ride on jeep and just enjoy your surroundings!
Motivate your kids to play outdoors
As you can see, there are loads of benefits to outdoor play, you only need to find ways to motivate your kids to get out. Especially today as kids are so dependent on screens indoors. Be creative and come up with exciting outdoor activities, both for the summer and winter. Have a look at this blog where we discuss the benefits of role-playing to children and maybe try to incorporate this into your outdoor play! IF you are interested in one of our role-playing jeeps, you can find them here. Kids’ electric ride-on toys can be of great use when encouraging children to go out and explore nature. As you can see, it will do the whole family well to get out!