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Springing into Action
Childhood development and outdoor activity
Many parents today spent their childhood summers engaged in unstructured outdoor play. As the children of the 70’s & 80’s grew up, they made the shift from unstructured play to more advanced play such as riding bikes, or playing baseball, football and dodgeball with other kids. With the pending return of warm weather, it’s hard not to remember those care-free days of youth.
However, many kids today spend much of their time indoors, playing games on their tablets or watching television. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that frequent unstructured outdoor play is critical to the health and development of children. Unfortunately with the many technological gadgets available, there’s a marked decline in the amount of time most children spend in outdoor free play.
Children need to play
Free play is how children develop mentally and physically. When they’re allowed to learn on their own, they begin to understand the world around them and how to interact with others. Children of all abilities benefit from both structured and unstructured outdoor activity. Outdoor play is crucial to normal vision development such as eye alignment and tracking skills, both of which are keys to success in learning.
Here are five outdoor play activities that will help any child to develop skills and confidence.
1. Supervised exploring
Sensory experiences are everywhere, your child can learn so much when given the freedom to explore the world around him. Lying in the grass, picking wild flowers or walking on a variety of surfaces can help him learn how to process different textures, sensations and discover how touch relates to sight.
2. Walking and climbing on uneven surfaces
Climbing up and down hills and navigating uneven surfaces can help build strength and endurance. Stroll with your child along a beach, hike along a wooded trail or in a park with hills. Exposing your child to various landscapes with a little elevation will help build stamina and cardiovascular strength.
3. Drawing with sidewalk chalk
When your child squats to draw on the sidewalk or driveway it strengthens the legs and trunk. Holding the chalk properly promotes development of fine motor and grasping skills. Sidewalk chalk can also be used to create simple games like hopscotch, foursquare, or mazes for tag. These games promote movement and exercise, which in turn builds endurance.
4. Ball games
Playing a friendly game of soccer or catch will help your child develop hand-eye and hand-feet coordination, motor and social skills. When playing a game with friends, children learn the concepts of taking turns and being a good sport.
5. Water toys and play
Children love water activities during hot weather, and many of these activities enhance gross and fine motor skills. A cheap paintbrush and a beach pail full of water can provide hours of fun “painting” sidewalks and fences, and handling the brush can promote a proper grip. Squirt guns, water balloons, sprinklers, and an inflatable wading pool are all easy summer activities that encourage movement, build stamina and promote coordination during play.
Summertime and the return of warm weather is a terrific opportunity to allow any child to roam outdoors. Keep safety in mind and your child will flourish.