Are you a parent who was born in the seventies or eighties? If so, there is a very real chance that the childhood you experienced is a world away from the one your children are enjoying now. Your memories may be filled with endless summers spent at the park, climbing trees on your estate or exploring the local farmer’s field, but this same level of freedom is rarely offered to our own offspring. Child safety is the first priority for any parent, but prolonged screen time can never replace the magic of outdoor play. Here is a list of essential skills that are best learned outdoors and why we need to give our children the chance to do them as often as possible.
Any parent knows that all children need to run, and this means having regular access to open space. Running helps to strengthen the developing bones, muscles and tendons as well as strengthening their core and improving their balance. By encouraging your child to play tag, chase a football, or even negotiate an amazing maze, you are giving them cardiovascular exercise and encouraging them to think on their feet, which improves both physical fitness and concentration levels.
Climbing a tree all the way to the top is on the to do list of all children, and there are more benefits to this activity than you might think. Climbing involves a great deal of upper body strength and good grip, alongside heightened spatial awareness and self-preservation. Research has shown that climbing trees can boost your brain, because when you climb your brain is constantly calculating your next move. Children who regularly climb often have improved balance, hand-eye coordination, concentration and patience.
The best way to dig is in the great outdoors with oodles of sand or soil to get stuck in to. Digging teaches children about depth, discovery, texture, and exploring the senses of touch and smell (and taste for most children too!) Sandpits in the garden are great for pouring and sifting, or better still, visit a local activity farm with a dedicated digging area to indulge your mini diggers.
There is nothing more satisfying than catching a creature yourself, and children can spend many a happy hour pond dipping, fishing and bug hunting. Whether you are close to brooks and reservoirs, canals or coastlines, catching fish, frogs and a menagerie of mini beasts is highly addictive. Even in your very own back garden children will learn the fine art of patience, perseverance and stealth whilst learning about the natural world around them, so grab a net, a bucket and a looking glass and get going!