Most of us would probably agree that the past year or so has provided no shortage of “indoor time.” We’ve baked all the bread, learned all the viral dances, and finished all the puzzles. We stretched the limits of screen time. Put simply, we are ready to get outside.
And that’s a good thing because outdoor play is good for a lot more than just getting the kids out of your hair — although we shouldn’t downplay that benefit! Playing outside is a crucial factor in a child’s development. It helps them improve both gross and fine motor skills, get Vitamin D, and use their imagination to explore the world around them. And multiple studies have shown that outdoor play also develops skills that positively impact kids’ reading and writing abilities.
Ready for your kids to take it outside? Here are some ideas for how to supercharge the benefits of outdoor play.
Let Them Make The Rules
When kids are out in the fresh air, opportunities to develop their brains are practically limitless. Research suggests that older children are more attentive and productive in the classroom when recess is part of the school day. And it’s more than just a brain break. When kids are playing outside, they’re cultivating their organizational abilities, honing their decision-making skills, and developing confidence in their autonomy — all often overlooked but important aspects of growing up.
Make the most of these benefits by allowing kids to direct their own play. When they create a game, they’re making rules and devising solutions in a hands-on way. Let kids invent an outside game with whatever rules they want (within reason), and watch their capacity for creativity flourish — even when they’re back indoors.
Fuel Their Imagination
One of the primary benefits of outside play is that outdoor spaces act as a kind of blank slate where kids can concoct the most imaginative scenarios. Without screens or toys, a puddle becomes a giant lake. A leaf morphs into a spaceship. A tree turns into a … well, whatever a tree could turn into. (See? Kids are the ones with the pure, uncut imagination!)
Of course, all that digging and building and climbing to create a new universe requires some serious energy. You’ll want to keep your kids fueled up with snacks like CLIF Kid Zbar®. They’re filled with the wholesome ingredients kids need to magically transform a picnic bench into superhero HQ. CLIF Kid Zbar™ is made with energizing whole grains from organic oats in delicious flavors kids love. Think of these snack bars as imagination fuel!
Encourage The Possibilities
Outdoor play is directly linked with a child’s physical strength, motor coordination, and ability to fight off illness, and the benefits to their growing bodies remain consistent. When they’re playing outside, they have more freedom to do things like run at top speed, climb playscapes, and swing from their arms, boosting their cardiovascular systems and developing their motor skills.
Of course, some kids don’t naturally gravitate toward running around and may need a little encouragement to get their hearts pumping. One way to do that is to help them find peers to play with outdoors. Research suggests that kids get more exercise outdoors when they play with siblings or friends. Kids play differently at nine than they do at two, so older kids may be more into organized activities like team sports.
While it’s important that we provide kids with access to safe outdoor play spaces, the real magic happens when we step back and just let them play, without adult direction. Sure, you’ve got to keep an eye on them to make sure the Viking battlefield doesn’t get a little too real, but unstructured free play is the good stuff. It’s where kids can be kids. It’s where they’re free to see the amazing in the everyday.
Keep your kids going and growing with CLIF Kid Zbar®. It’s a delicious, whole grain energy bar for active kids, and they’ve got the taste and texture kids love. They’re sized for little hands and made with delicious, wholesome ingredients and organic oats. These bars are crafted to keep kids going, growing, and exploring — whether they’re on the field or on the move, fueling the best of what’s to come.