20 Facts how Outdoor Play makes Children Smarter

The benefits of Outdoor Play are well documented. It helps children develop curiosity, empathy and awareness of the world around them, but did you know it also helps make out children smarter? We’ve put together a list of some of the facts we’ve found that backs this up.

Outdoor Play is a multi-sensory activity

While outdoors, children will see, hear, smell and touch things unavailable to them when they play inside. They use their brains in unique ways as they come to understand these new stimuli. Your school could consider creating a Sensory Play Area to extend these opportunities.

It brings together informal play and formal learning

Children can incorporate concepts they have learned at school in a hands-on way while outdoors. For example, seeing and touching the roots of a tree will bring to life the lesson their teacher taught about how plants get their nutrients. Nature Play Areas are perfect for this!

Playing outdoors stimulates creativity

Robin Moore, an expert in the design of play and learning environments, says, “Natural spaces and materials stimulate children’s limitless imagination and serve as the medium of inventiveness and creativity.” Rocks, stones and dirt present limitless opportunities for play that can be expressed differently every time a child steps outside.

Outdoor Play is open-ended

There is no instruction manual for outdoor play. Children make the rules and in doing so use their imagination, creativity, intelligence and negotiation skills in a unique way. They can learn the way that works best for them.

Playing in nature reduces anxiety

Time spent outside physiologically reduces anxiety. Children bring an open mind and a more relaxed outlook back inside when they are in more traditional learning environments.

Attention span is increased through Outdoor Play

Time spent in unstructured play outdoors is a natural attention builder. Often children who have difficulty with pen and paper tasks, or sitting still for long periods of times, are significantly more successful after time spent outside. Also, as children are in a world of their own imagination, they must pay greater attention to the actions of those around them to ensure their own behaviour fits in with that of the group. Sub-conscious attention is nothing like as taxing on children, and yet develops the same skill sets.

Outdoor Play is imaginative

Because there are no labels, no pre-conceived ideas and no rules, children must create the world around them. In this type of play, children use their imagination in ways they don’t when playing indoors.

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Being in nature develops respect for other living things

Children develop empathy, the ability to consider other people’s feeling, by interacting with creatures in nature. Watching a tiny bug, a blue bird or a squirrel scurrying up a tree gives children the ability to learn and grow from others.

Outdoor Play promotes problem solving

As children navigate a world in which they make the rules, they must learn to understand what works and what doesn’t, what lines of thinking bring success and failure, how to know when to keep trying and when to stop. Knowing how far to push the boundaries is an essential life skill, and highly beneficial when learned in a safe environment. You can read more on this here.

Playing outside promotes leadership skills

In an environment where children create the fun, natural leaders will arise. One child may excel at explaining how to play the game, while another may enjoy setting up the physical challenge of an outdoor obstacle course. All types of leadership skills are needed and encouraged. This in term contributes to learning how to be part of a team.

Outdoor Play broadens vocabulary

While playing outdoors, children may see an acorn, a squirrel and a butterfly. As they encounter new things, opportunities continually arise where they can expand their vocabulary in ways it never could indoors. Often descriptive language sees improvement too. Outdoor Play is very important in the development of language skills, as detailed in this study.

Playing outside improves listening skills

As children negotiate the rules of an invented game, they must listen closely to one another, ask questions for clarification and attend to the details of explanations in ways they don’t have to when playing familiar games.

Being in nature improves communication skills

Unclear about the rules in an invented game? Not sure how to climb the clamber stack or create that beastie hotel? Children must learn to question and clarify for understanding while simultaneously making themselves understood. This also supports working together as a team.

Outdoor Play encourages cooperative play

In a setting where there aren’t clear winners and losers, children work together to meet a goal. Together they compromise and work together to meet a desired outcome.

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Time in nature helps children to notice patterns

The natural world is full of patterns. The petals on flowers, the veins of a leaf, the bark on a tree are all patterns. Pattern building is a crucial early maths skill.

Playing outdoors helps children to notice similarities and differences

The ability to sort items and notice the similarities and differences in them is yet another skill crucial to mathematical success. Time outdoors affords many opportunities for sorting.

Time spent outdoors improves children’s immune systems

Healthy children are stronger learners. As children spend more and more time outdoors, their immune systems improve, decreasing time out of school for illness.

Outdoor Play increases children’s physical activity level

This is an obvious point, but children who play outdoors are less likely to be obese and more likely to be active learners. Obesity in children is on the rise, and the availability of technology may have something to do with that.

Time spent outdoors increases persistence

Outdoor games often require persistence. Children must try and try again if their experiment fails, and this is a valuable quality to develop as they grow older.

Lastly, Outdoor Play is fun!

Children who are happy are successful learners. Children are naturally happy when they are moving, playing and creating outside. This joy opens them up for experimenting, learning and growing.

There we have it, 20 reasons how Outdoor Play makes children smarter! If your school is looking to create a unique play space, get in touch with Playcubed today.

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