Kids LOVE playing outdoors, and importantly, kids NEED to play outdoors. Young children learn many of their developmental tasks through outdoor play but with the increasing prevalence of digital distractions, they are spending more screen time as opposed to green time.
Just recently, a new study showed that most Perth children aren’t active enough with over two thirds of pre-schoolers falling short of the national guideline of three hours of physical activity a day.
An article on PerthNow discussed the preliminary findings from the three-year study, the largest of its kind in Australia, which found that only 30 per cent of the 1 200 kids surveyed moved for three hours or more during a typical day at an early learning centre.
Now that should send alarm bells ringing around homes and schools in WA and it should also send parents and caregivers straight out into the garden to create an outdoor play area!
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Outdoor play is important in that it enables young kids to develop their fine and gross motor skills, and it can provide invaluable opportunities for kids to explore, experiment, create, blow off steam, get creative, get physical, run, jump, climb, swing, learn social skills, push their limits and understand boundaries. Outdoor play can also give children opportunities to learn how to amuse themselves, without needing input or guidance from others.
Here are some easy and simple ways of creating an exciting, fun, safe and inviting play area in your backyard or playground that will get the kids moving – and keep them occupied and happy for hours.
Make it messy
Messy play is a great way to stimulate all their senses.
If you’ve got the space, a sandpit is wonderful but a wheelbarrow full of mud works just as well – and you can move it around or put it away when required.
Water fun is also a great way of activating sensory experiences, so consider setting up a tub of water or a water wall and giving the kids different things to play with, such as a funnel, sieve, plastic piping, cups, jugs, straws etc.
An outdoor playground is the perfect place to involve kids in constructive play.
An array of different sized blocks, loose objects, safe materials for building a fort or cubby, toy trucks and other wheeled toys will encourage kids to create and construct.
Some scrap pieces of wood, old car tyres and logs of differing heights are all versatile (and cheap) resources that will get the kids running outside to play balancing and climbing games which are so important for their motor skills.
Set aside some space for the little ones to create their very own fairy garden, dinosaur den or safari savannah and see how far their imaginations will take them.
Creating an outdoor play space is a great way for kids to learn about the natural world so you could even encourage them to grow real plants in their garden – especially edible ones like tomatoes and carrots.
Outdoor play is so important for kids on so many levels. From physical to cognitive, social to emotional, they’ll benefit hugely if they have an appealing and exciting outside space where they can play freely and express themselves.
What’s more, outdoor play will help to boost their Vitamin D levels which is an important health consideration.
But too much exposure to the sun is never a good thing, especially when it comes to the harsh and harmful Australian UV rays, so you may want to consider installing some protection for your outdoor space and make sure you have your SPF 50+ sunscreen on hand!
What was your favourite outdoor game to play as a child? Do you remember it?! Let us know in the comments below!