The Importance of Outdoor Play - Mums NI - A Hub For Parents in Northern Ireland

The Importance of Outdoor Play

Mums NI
Written by Mums NI on Friday, 14 July 2017 Posted in: Kids Health

The Importance of Outdoor Play

With our hectic lifestyles of being either a stay at home parent or working 9 - 5 in say an office, picking children up from school/daycare/grandparents and commuting home to prepare dinner and get homeworks done, running to extra curricular classes etc, it can be very easy to just let our children unwind and play on the ipad, wii U or catch up on their favourite tv shows.  And that’s fine, it honestly is.  But the problem is, it’s indoors!  

Research has shown that living here in Northern Ireland, a high percentage of children are deficient in Vitamin D, which we get from the sunshine.  Health Visitors are now recommending that children take a supplement that contains Vitamin D, especially in the winter months.  We can only obtain around 10 - 20% of this vitamin through food, the rest is via a mixture of a supplement and good old fashioned sunshine.  Which means, we need to get our children outdoors again.

When I was growing up, it was perfectly alright for my parents to open the door in the morning time and let me run about outside for all hours only coming back when I needed my lunch and dinner and inevitably having to go to bed.  I played in the muck and rivers in our local forest, played football in the fields and skipping and running about in the streets.  We had fun.  Children now days do still have fun, but in a different way - in front of gadgets.

We need to get back to the outdoor play.  It doesn’t have to be mucky play, just natural.  Children will benefit greatly from this experience and it will open up a new world to them.  Outside they can build up their motor skills such as climbing, running, leaping and jumping as well as learning to throw/catch/kick a ball, ride a bicycle, pulling, lifting and carrying.  These are all physical skills children need to learn to master in order to fine tune their motor and manipulative skills.

While playing outside, children will burn off excess calories which will help to stave off childhood obesity.  They will also build up their immune system while playing with things like sand, water and foliage.  The more children play outside the more you will notice their mood changing, they will become happier, relaxed and will sleep easier.  The fresh air will do them a world of good.

As mentioned, a new world awaits children when they play outside.  They are more likely to use their imagination to invent new games which will allow childeren to express themselves and cooperate with others which will enhance their social skills.  They will learn new communication skills and pick up some new vocabulary as well as learning how to take turns and encourage other children to join in.

Children learn a lot through their senses. Being outside exposes them the beauty of nature (sight), the sounds of wildlife (hearing), the aroma of wild garlic growing (smell), the feel of leaves crunching under their feet and playing with sticks (touch) and quite possibly a treat of some blackberries growing on a bush (taste).  All these things will create a sense of wonder for the natural environment that surrounds them which will stay with them through childhood into adulthood, thus creating appreciation and a love for the great outdoors.

While outdoors, children can be as loud as they need to be without ever being told off, they can get mucky and expel a lot of built up energy.  In all likelihood, they’ll have so much fun they won’t want to come indoors again.  That would be brilliant.  It can be something as simple as opening your back door and letting them explore your garden or something more adventurous like camping/glamping.

Why not just get the whole family outdoors?  The exercise will do you all a world of good and you will have some great quality family time.  As the weather in Northern Ireland is somewhat unpredictable, maybe it would be a good idea to keep the wellies and raincoats close by so that you will always be prepared for an outing - there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!

Remember: incorporate vitamin D fortified foods, a supplement containing vitamin D and plenty of outdoor activity into your child's routine.

Mums NI’s top outdoor family adventures:

Gruffalo Trail in Glen Colin Forest Park

Galgorm Castle Fairy Trail

Slieve Gullion Forest Park

Tollymore Forest Park

Oxford Island Nature Reserve

Any Beach/Park/Farm

Tagged with: combat childhood obesity, outdoor activities, Outdoor Play, sunshine play
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