Do you remember how much fun it was to play outside when you were growing up? Did you stay outside as long as you could get away with when you were on the summer holidays, climbing trees, building dens and inventing games with your friends?
These are some of the memories that childhood is made of. These days, parents can be a little wary of allowing their kids to enjoy some of the freedoms that they experienced as children, but children need to be allowed to play outside with friends to develop social skills and learn how to interact with their peers, as well as the obvious health and fitness benefits of blowing off some steam in the fresh air and running off some of that endless energy that children are blessed with.
Finding a place to play
It’s still really important that we encourage our little ones to play outside. Even if you don’t have any obvious play areas around you, the great outdoors can be the ultimate adventure playground and with a bit of imagination, even the smallest outdoor space can be a play area. Children love looking for hidden play spaces and if you have a garden, that’s perfect.
If you live in a city or a built up area, take the kids to a nearby park or common, and if you live out of town there are bound to be local parks, greens and if you’re lucky even a beach not too far away.
Children need to learn how to push themselves through play – testing boundaries (to a point) and learning how to be independent. We live in a risk-averse culture but it’s important to allow little ones to take small, managed risks like mastering new tasks (climbing, riding a bike) or conquering their fears.
Let their imaginations run wild
The really impressive thing about kids’ imaginations is that it really doesn’t take much to spark them – that’s something we see every day working with children at Learn Play Grow. Give them an idea and they usually run with it. Remember how you could create your own little worlds, characters and stories and act them out with your friends when you were young? Children don’t need expensive play areas to develop their own games, and given an opportunity, they will throw themselves into active play, running around and immersing themselves in the experience with very little encouragement.
Make the most of your children’s imaginations by taking them out and playing active games with them. The government’s Change4Life project has also created a downloadable e-book with ideas for games you can play with the family outside, ideas for all age groups from toddlers upwards – games that will get them active and energetic, and which need hardly any room and no expensive props or equipment.
The weather looks like being hit and sunny for the next few weeks so why not print off the booklet, slap on the sun screen and take the kids out to play silly games?