Outdoor Play | Day Eleven

“When playing ouside in fields or a naturally landscaped backyard,
children stretch all of their senses, something they do not do in front of a screen.”
-- Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Children need to play outside. They need fresh air, sunlight, sensory stimulation. Free exploration in a world peaceful and filled with creative opportunity.

Children who have ample time to explore an outdoor environment show signs of increased self-confidence, increased resourcefulness, ability to cope with stress, and even a decrease in symptoms of depression and hyperactivity disorders.

We love to get together with friends to chase across fields and roll down grassy hills and ride bikes and play in the dirt and toss rocks into water and explore trails.

During the months of summer, we had some very hot, miserable attempted walks and eventually lost some of our outdoor play habits. Extreme heat and cold always present challenges. But there are ways. :) We should have brought out the hose more often, wore hats and long sleeved rash guards to prevent sunburn, splashed in the pool, painted the fence with water, etc. -- but all these ideas were lost on me in the “heat of the moment”. ;) Next summer we’ll have a reminder list.

It's important to model to your children that you personally enjoy being outside too -- show them that you get pleasure from walking barefoot in the grass, that you are excited about falling into a snowbank, that you enjoy trying to catch raindrops on your tongue. That you think bugs and plants and animals are interesting, inspiring, worth looking at and spending time with {well, at least some of them...}.

Peter went through a “pill-bug stage” where every outdoor adventure included capturing and watching and trying to keep a pill bug {or two or three}. It’s the hunt, the curiosity, the observation. It’s when our senses are alert, our creativity is at its peak, and we are relaxed. Nature is doing its gentle, restorative work in our lives.

"Nature is a tool," says Moss, "to get children to experience not just the wider world, but themselves." So climbing a tree, he says, is about "learning how to take responsibility for yourself, and how – crucially – to measure risk for yourself. Falling out of a tree is a very good lesson in risk and reward." {quoted from an article from Guardian.co.uk}

So -- want happy kids? Help them learn to enjoy free play outside..

Click here to read the rest of the posts in the series, 31 Days to Happier Children.