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
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.