Kids need outside play

Children need outdoor play

By Beate Frome

 As children we roamed the fields, forest, and streams in our neighborhood. We enjoyed building with mud, dry grasses, and bark. We played hide and seek in corn fields. We came home happy, content, dirty, hungry, and ready for bed.

 Children today very seldom get to enjoy the outdoors. Not just learn about the outdoors, really enjoy the feel of the moss between their toes, the feel of bark when you lean against it, the sound of a tree with the wind gently blowing, or the smell of a stream.

 There is something therapeutic about being outdoors, being away from the stresses of the day. Letting go of disagreements, school, relationship worries, and so forth, simply being in the present. We do our children a disservice by withholding the rich experiences nature can offer.

 In “Magic Trees of the Mind” Marian Diamond, Ph.D. argues that we provide impoverished environments for our children. “It doesn't take the orphanage scene from Daviod Copperfield to qualify as an impoverished environment. All it takes is a toddler sitting alone and passive for hours in front of a television set, dreaming eyes of wonder glazed over, imagination shelved, exploratory energy on hold. Then throw in a bowl of potato chips and a soda...” (109).

 By keeping children safe at home, we are not allowing them to grow emotionally and intellectually. Richard Louv explored what he calls, the Nature Deficit Disorder among children. He calls exploring nature, Natures Ritalin. In his book “Last Child in the Woods,” Louv explains: “Nature – the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful – offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot. Nature presents the young with something so much greater than they are; it offers an environment where they can easily contemplate infinity and eternity.” (96)

Robin Moore, a champion for outdoor play, who has written about the natural settings being essential for a healthy child development because it stimulates all senses, integrate informal play with formal language. According to Moore, multi-sensory experiences in nature help to build “the cognitive constructs necessary for sustained intellectual development,” and stimulates imagination by supplying the child with the free space and materials for what he calls children's “architecture and artifacts.” Natural spaces and materials stimulate children's limitless imaginations and serve as the medium of inventiveness and creativity observable in almost any group of children playing in a natural setting, “ says Moore. (Louve, 85,86).

 Giving children few, but quality toys can aid parents in helping develop their child's multisensory experience in nature along with a healthy dose of imagination. Simply learning to dig sand that is wet, sand that is dry, sand that is mixed with leaves, and so on, can teach a child about natural matter. The child will playfully learn physics as they dig and dump sand. They can learn about the cut bank and the slip-off slope of a meandering stream by adding water to the sand or dirt. By being allowed and encouraged to learn in nature, the child develops a keen sense of themselves as part of nature. Sandboxes can become excavation pits and the child is the operator or CEO of the operation.

 Outdoor play is so much more for children than simply being outdoors, all their senses are involved and get used and honed out to sense changes around them. A quality toy will assist your child in spending therapeutic time outdoors.

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