- Improved fine motor skills and coordination. When allowed to free play outdoors, young children improve their balance and motor skills. Walking across a fallen branch or swinging on a playset? These activities help practice balance. Picking flowers or gathering leaves? Children have to grasp items between their fingers. These experiences help gain skills and confidence needed as children enter preschool.
- Improved creative thinking. The outside world is an open book. A broken branch can become a fairy wand. A garden path can become a river. Multiple studies have shown the importance of pretend play in a child’s development, and nowhere offers more opportunities for this than outside. Hanscom goes beyond the elementary years to mention how the creativity of outside play improves a student’s ability to answer a free write essay question in middle and high school.
- Improved emotional stability. The outside world can be scary. There are bugs and animals, sharp rocks and stones, even a busy neighborhood street. However, as Hanscom mentions, all these fears create learning opportunities. Parents can teach their child how to listen for cars and safely cross streets, or how to identify plants such as poison ivy or oak. Learning to look for solutions helps children later in life when they face a scary situation such as speaking in public or interviewing for college.
As you can see, there are lots of reasons to encourage outdoor play in children, and at Stuart Hall School, we try to do our part by providing daily outdoor recess and PE whenever the weather allows.