The Vital Benefits of Outdoor Play

Today many children are best friends with the TV, or are practically married to their video games. Parents have a valid concern about whether or not their children are getting enough exercise. With schools removing physical education from their curriculums, we need to really make a greater effort to see that our kids are making up for it at home or at least delving into “extracurricular” activities such as skating, swimming, bowling and the like.

Getting the Ball Rolling

Image: Tina Phillips /

Wise parents will thrust their children into the great outdoors with the well-worn phrase, “Go outside and play.” Despite their protests and whining, getting some fresh air won’t, in fact, “kill them.” Rather, it tends to have the opposite effect. Once children understand that they aren’t allowed back inside for a little while, they tend to start looking for things to do (I remember using twigs to dig rivers in the dirt, and then filling them with the hose).

There’s no greater enemy to young children than boredom. To combat this great evil in their small world, they will eventually start those creative gears turning. No matter how rusty they may be, they’ll end up having fun in spite of themselves. Invite at least one friend over as it’s always more interesting than playing alone; this also increases their social skills.

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The Art of Make Believe

Turning their boredom into activity allows kids to develop a healthy imagination; a trait all parents hope to see in their children. Imagining develops creativity that is needed for problem-solving skills (for entering the work force and higher education). It’s no accident that Disney Studios has an “Imagineering Department;” the mind factory that has brilliantly hatched our most beloved Disney movies and documentaries.

Play Equipment Teaches Social Skills

Initially, children will gravitate toward play equipment that doesn’t take much effort on their part. They might sit on the swings to sulk for a little while. Next, they will almost always embark on climbing apparatus; effort comes into play when height is rewarded, directly to how hard they try. Kids begin to get a sense of accomplishment as they climb higher and higher, aiming to the sky. This action carries directly over into finding rewards for their hard work in school. They also develop faith in themselves that they can affect their outcomes.

Sliding takes more effort, but teaches another skill. Kids learn that in order to enjoy a few moments of fun (sliding down) they will need to put in the effort first (climbing up the steps). While they definitely aren’t contemplating these hard facts of life while they trudge up the ladder rungs, it starts to show in their learning to wait a moment to take their turn; a good lesson to tone down their primal urge for “instant gratification.”

Playing outside teaches our children how to better interact with others, problem-solve, have fun with and stretch their imaginations. More importantly, your kids will gain confidence in themselves and their ability to create happiness.

Alice McCoy has six children, and is a part time blogger and the daughter of a long-haul trucker. Although she stays at home with her kids now, she still stays involved with her Dad’s business by keeping an eye out for truck driving jobs and writes about specific trucking topics like semi truck insurance.

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