Although these activities can have a positive impact on health and fitness, the truth is that introducing children to the great outdoors, setting the base for a life-long connection to the natural world, especially now, as young people are going outside much less frequently than in the past due to increased access to technology, is the best gift parents can provide to their children.
Outdoor play fosters children's development, as it provides them an ever-changing and free-flowing environment that stimulates all the senses.
Nature works as an open-ended learning laboratory. Children are natural explorers that love to experience the sights, scents, sounds, and textures of the outdoors. The natural world provides numerous opportunities for discovery, creativity, problem-solving, and STEM education. Interacting with outdoor environments children have the chance to learn by doing and experiment with ideas. In the natural world, children think, question, and make hypotheses, as it creates a unique sense of wonder.
Outdoor play provides the opportunity for children to interact with new and different playmates, however, in nature, children can play alone or connect with one another, learn to share, and problem solve. Playing outdoors, children often collaborate to create new games and rules due to the lack of written instructions. By exploring outside, school-age children are often not so close to adults, which gives them the opportunity to act without inhibition. In natural environments, even lively and active children may slow down and learn to focus on being gentle and may develop empathy by reaching out to comfort a friend who is hurt or sad.
The natural world is revitalizing and offers endless opportunities for physical activity, which, successively, builds strong bodies. Outdoor play provides you with exposure to sunlight that helps keep your skin and the total immune system healthy and keep your sleep cycle regular. In natural environments, children tend to be more physically active than indoor play, burning more calories and helping their overall fitness.
Nature helps children practice an effortless type of attention known as the soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, reducing stress and fatigue. Being outdoor children are free to explore, move about, and make noise; all delightful forms of self-expression that are often restricted indoors. In natural environments children can run, jump, hop, skip, climb, roll, and shout, which relaxes, and reduces tension, anxiety, and restlessness. Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder play calm outdoor, as nature enhances a sense of peace. Children slow down to dig a hole in the sand, watch a ladybug crawl, or spend focused time playing with a stick in a mud puddle.
Children are the future stewards of the earth. In order to evolve into adults who are passionate about protecting the environment and preserving our planet, we must first develop a deep love for it. The only way for children to grow up in balance with nature is to open the door and let them explore the miracle and awe of the natural world.