As a child I lived in a cul de sac of twelve very ordinary three-bed semi-detached houses around an area of grass lined with trees. I was one of about 11 children of varying ages who grew up there. We had great fun and played out together all the time. We argued, we made up; we fell over and cried, we got over it. My friends taught me to ride a bike, cracking my head on the kerb in the process. If we weren’t in school, we played out. If it rained, we played board games in someone’s garage. Parents were not involved, they checked we hadn’t left the Close, provided homemade ice lollies in the summer and calamine lotion when we fell in the nettles and that was about it.
I believe that playing out with friends is important for children for so many reasons. The benefits of playing outdoors are endless, from the physical to the emotional. Children learn from their environment, from the sights, sounds and smells around them. They learn from each other and develop an understanding of how their behaviour affects others. Without adult input, they have to work it out for themselves and they gain a better insight in to how to make friendships and relationships work.
Outdoor play has the advantage of developing physical skills – balance, learning to ride a bike, generally keeping active – which help motor skills, brain development and self confidence. We all know activity is good for us, but there’s more to it. When children play out together, without adults, they develop essential social skills, which are just as important as academic skills. Here, they are learning outside the school environment, which encourages the idea of education being a constant, rather than just being a school experience.
Their imagination is fired, as outdoors children are not surrounded by television shows or computers and so they learn to create their own ideas and fun - they become more inventive and resourceful. This leads to more independence and self-reliance, rather than depending on the adults around them. They can begin to assess their own actions and the consequences of those actions.
It’s National Play Outside Day on the first Saturday of every month, make sure you get outside and benefit from the fresh air and sun – even in the winter you can absorb Vitamin D! Round up your kids’ friends and put them in a safe outdoor area and let the play.