The Importance of Playing in Natural Environments

The Importance of Playing in Natural Environments

The outdoors can teach us so much about the world. For children, getting outside, playing in natural environments and learning from what surrounds us is vital to their development.

When you were growing up, what might have seemed like play was actually extremely important. There is now plenty of research to suggest the long term benefits for children growing up when they engage with nature.

girl climbing tree wearing muddy puddles jacket

There’s actually four key areas that can be boosted by a child engaging with nature: intellectual, emotional, physical, and social. In this article, we’ll cover how each of these extremely important development areas can be improved by taking the kids outside and learning some lessons from nature.

Intellectual Benefits

Children are so inquisitive, the world provides a never-ending source of learning opportunities. With a natural curiosity, putting children in an outdoor environment lets them experience new sights, smells, sounds and textures. Outdoor lessons also develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. How far is that gap between the two trees? Where do certain birds go in the winter and why? What are the benefits of having children enquire about the world in such a way? They are given real-world examples of applying the knowledge they’re learning from their lessons inside. It’s an authentic experience that lets them gain confidence in themselves to continue developing outside of a classroom.

boy wearing muddy puddles scampsuit

Emotional Benefits

Getting outside is a natural stress reliever and feels great for children. They are no longer within the confines of a classroom and are free to make noise, move, and look around. Nature is also able to relax children who might be usually more energetic. The change of scenery also provides a break in the usual routine which can be a learning stimulant and open a child’s mind to new perspectives on their lessons. Watching leaves blow across a playground, or building a shelter out of sticks can be a great way for children to slow down. There has been a lot of research around the reduction of ADHD and anxiety symptoms just through a child being exposed more to nature.

Social Benefits

A different environment to the classroom provides an opportunity for children to interact and play with new people. Outdoor play gives children the chance to collaborate, use their imagination and have fun with their peers. Interacting within a group environment teaches lessons around sharing, creating and following rules, and listening. Group situations also help with a child’s empathy development, where they can console and try to help a member of their group if they’re sad or hurt.

children playing in woods wearing waterproofs

Physical Benefits

The health benefits of getting outside and playing in natural environments are immense. Letting a child have fresh air, move their body, run around, and play means they will build stronger muscles and bones. Sunlight will increase a child’s amount of vitamin D and their immune system will benefit from the activity. Outdoor play usually always lets a child be more physically active, which means energy is spent and the child’s health, in general, will improve. Giving children the opportunity to get outside and learn is an extremely important aspect of their mental and physical development. It’s a simple process that can have a huge impact, not only on developing minds, but for health and happiness too.

This article was written by N Family Club, a group of progressive and design-led nurseries in London which specialise in creating exciting settings for children and families.

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