In today’s digital age, childhood pastimes are increasingly moving indoors – leaving children arguably denied of the natural learning opportunities that the outdoors offer. Rachel Stroud, from SA Kids, gives the DIRT on outdoor play, reflecting on the many physical, cognitive and social/emotional benefits of the outdoors:

Children are naturally curious and  motivated to learn about their environment and surroundings. They do this by asking questions and talking about their experiences. What better way to explore their world than by being outside enjoying it?

Free and unstructured play outdoors encourages problem solving, social skills and many other forms of development. It’s an ideal environment for experiential learning, as it offers unique opportunities to be creative, to move around, and for children to make choices, be loud or quiet.

Outside, kids can explore, take risks, run as fast as they can, jump, climb, shout and sing.

It also provides them with the space and environment to be peaceful, to be still, calm, to lay down and look up at the sky, to enjoy the silence or sounds of nature around them. To make their choice to follow a path that interests them.

As well as providing opportunities for creative play and being resourceful, outdoor play promotes a sense of confidence and wellbeing.

Source: Stroud, R. 2014, ‘The dirt on outdoor play’, SA Kids, 28 August. 

Outdoor play is invaluable to a child’s development on a number of levels.  Through outdoor play, kids unleash their creativity, learn to express themselves and above all, discover the world around them. With so many benefits, here are some simple tips to engage your kids in the outdoors these school holidays:

  • Enjoy the outdoors by hiking, playing at the beach or park, or riding. You may even wish to plan a camp together.
  • Be directed by your child, and encourage their involvement in whatever they are interested in. Simply visiting the local park can provide kids with a fulfilling outdoor adventure.
  • Be involved yourself. Research shows that by engaging in the outdoors with your child, you will enjoy positive learning experiences together – that are fun. Be a part of the process – and be an example. Make their outdoor experience a shared experience.