Play for children looks different these days, right? What do you see them doing? Do you think children these days have the opportunity for play that is free, unstructured and unrestricted? And outdoors? It’s time children get back to playing the good old fashion way; where trees, mud, sand, wood, grass, fresh air, hills and rivers are regular features.
Here’s why… life has become more virtual for children and screen time is generally what we see children doing as ‘play’. Other play time has boundaries, restrictions and is often indoors. Children are most often in upright positions and limited in play options. Alongside this change we are seeing more children with trouble paying attention, concentrating, controlling their emotions and decreased strength and endurance in their bodies.
Free play is a time for children to have space to be free, let their mind run wild, let their body run wilder and this can be the best thing for their development. Children learn their abilities, their limitations and build their social skills when playing with other children in free and unstructured style of play.
Why the outdoors… well wonderful Mother Nature has achieved a perfect harmony between what we can hear, what we can feel, see and smell, and it makes us move our body’s in different and sometimes challenging ways. Children get to jump, spin, run, walk through long grass, short grass, sand, rocks, climb, walk through water, walk up hills and down hills, on slippery surfaces or hard surfaces and it is this that helps children develop their most important system, their vestibular sense (balance). A good balance system means children can be confident in movement, begin to learn, and understand what is happening around them.
Free play in the outdoors sees children develop strong body systems that support their best function and better movement, helps them become more independent and confident... and puts them in a state where they are ready to pay attention, listen and learn.
To help achieve this it is ideal to provide on a daily basis time for children to have the opportunity to engross themselves in free, unstructured, outdoor play that engages the whole body in meaningful play experiences.
Here are some ideas…
- Let you children choose where they would like to go.
- Be close by but do not interrupt their play.
- Find logs to balance and walk on.
- Go to a park or oval and let them run free, there does not need to be playground equipment for play.
- Have a splash in the creeks or streams.
- Provide loose parts for your children to pick up, stack, build and play with. Pieces that encourage exploration and can have more than one purpose.
- Go to engaging environments that stimulates the senses; forests, national parks, parklands or botanic gardens.
- Explore mud puddles, go to the beach, or play near a stream.
- Use movement in games that require children to extend out of an upright position and move in all directions like spinning, swinging, rolling, hanging, dancing and climbing.
- Watch as your child comes up with his/her own ideas and play schemes.
- Go to the nature playgrounds around SA:
- Morialta Conservation Park – nature play space
- Goolwa Nature Playground
- St Kilda Adventure Playground
- Goodale Reserve
- Enchanted Garden Prospect Memorial Garden
- Ossie Goldsworthy Reserve, Blackwood
- Learn more; see here for more factsheets - https://natureplaysa.org.au/families/nature-play-downloads/
- Have a look at the upcoming events through Nature Play SA. See website: https://natureplaysa.org.au/events/action=tribe_photo&tribe_paged=1&tribe_event_display=photo