Posted by Dr Amanda Lloyd and Elise Cooper at July 26 2019, 3:27pm
Playing outside is great for entertaining the kids and creating a sense of adventure, but research shows it's great for their happiness and mental development too.
Dr Amanda Lloyd of Outdoor Connections and a spokesperson for Planet Ark says "outdoor learning and nature play are key to helping kids develop critical thinking and problem solving, grit or resilience, and emotional intelligence. "
Research shows children (and adults) who have regular contact with nature are happier, healthier and their cognitive and physical development is improved. Shy children can become leaders of a social group and are more confident when outside, and overall children are calmer and more relaxed, plus their creativity and productivity is enhanced.
The benefits can be seen in schools too. Research from the Planet Ark report says 77% of teachers reported improvement in standardised test results, and exposure to natural environments reduces stress and enhances creativity and productivity.
Amanda told Kinderling that simply taking our children outdoors for designated learning time is hugely beneficial to their social development and problem solving skills.
"When they're outside... children are learning skills that you don't get from being inside watching a TV or listening to a teacher speak. They're having to problem solve amongst themselves which is always really rewarding to watch. They're learning resilience tp cope with (things like) if their shelter falls down then they have to pick it up. They're learning those simple things in what for them is a real life activity," she says. "The outside isn't orderly so it opens up a lot of opportunities for kids."
It’s up to parents, teachers and the wider community to increase the amount of outdoor learning and nature time in our children’s lives, and prepare them for the future. And build life-long connections to nature so they may become the caretakers of the future
There are lots of simple ways to integrate more nature time into children’s lives. If you can take your indoor activites outdoors, then do so!
Top 5 tips for enjoying the outdoors as a family
- Take indoor activities outdoors - take devices, books, homework, even dinner outside. This can mean merely going as far as your backyard, or venturing to the park, or further afield if you're feeling adventurous!
- Make the most of your time outdoors with your family - switch off the screens, take the dog for a walk together, visit the park, make a sandcastle on the beach.
- Become involved in community programs and events such as National Tree Day or Schools Tree Day, or join your local Junior Landcare, Scouts group or Nature Play associations.
- Make time to go on a short bush walks, and while on it, use the senses to explore the area’s textures, sounds and colours. For a few moments be fully immersed in the sounds of nature by being silent and still.
- Be supportive of your child’s teachers if they want to do more work outdoors with students, or suggest they check out the outdoor lessons developed by Cool Australia and visit Planet Ark for more information.
Do your kids love getting grubby? Check out our special Dirtgirl Nature Detective Academy podcast:
Each episode inspires kids to get outside and make the most of the world around them!
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