With warmer weather showing its pretty face, it’s a natural time to get kids outside to play – and according to Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident and Capable Children, that’s exactly what they need. At AZ+A, we couldn’t agree more (and this is why we use our own outdoor play space whenever possible)!
In an interview with CBC Radio, Hanscom says children are struggling to develop strength and balance. Why? Because they play outside far less than children did 30 years ago. This lack of play time has also brought about a shift in children’s behavior. The child that can’t seem to pay attention or constantly squirms in his seat? He most likely needs some outdoor play.
Outdoor play is instrumental in:
- developing strength
- understanding reflexes
- improving concentration
- good balance
More and more children are presenting with sensory issues these days. They are not moving like they did in years past. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, spinning in circles just for fun, or climbing trees at great heights. In fact, our society often discourages this type of play due to liability issues and fear of falls.
And while it’s tempting to hover over our children, set a short time limit or issue a list of outside play dos and don’ts, it’s critical for parents to refrain from imposing those limitations. Why? Given the time and freedom play without a list of “rules”, kids intuitively engage in the activities their bodies need most. Jumping, spinning, digging and hanging on monkey bars all contribute to healthy development. Not to mention, nature is the ultimate sensory experience!
Activities such as climbing trees, playing in mud puddles, swinging and even building forts can be simulated indoors in sensory gyms and by working with pediatric occupational therapists, but when children engage in these activities outdoors, all of their senses are engaged – and their lives are that much richer.
“My recommendation is at least three hours of outdoor play a day and do whatever you can to just get the kids outside.” Angela Hanscom