According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), outdoor play is critical to children’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and social health. Playing outdoors gives kids many opportunities to exercise, which strengthens their bodies and immune systems, prevents obesity, and increases vitamin D levels. Outside play—and the fun that goes along with it—can also lower children’s stress and anxiety levels. Furthermore, unstructured outside play promotes creativity, boosts problem-solving skills, and helps kids focus better in the classroom. And playing with others teaches kids to work in groups.
But a 2015 AAP study found that many kids aren’t getting enough opportunities for outdoor play. With video games and social media vying for kids’ attention, the great outdoors have competition. Luckily, there are all types of outdoor toys to encourage your children to get off the couch and get outside. Here are some popular options.
These kid-friendly rides help kids develop balance and coordination, enhance their gross motor skills, boost their confidence, and encourage exploration. Options abound for kids of all ages and skill levels. Just be sure your child is wearing a properly fitting bike helmet.
Sports equipment. Playing sports is not only great exercise. It teaches kids important lessons in teamwork and sportsmanship. Team sports show kids how to follow rules and be part of a team. Plus, sports are fun! By having a wide variety of balls, bats, and other sports equipment to play with, your children can discover which sports they love best.
Climbers. Backyard climbers and play sets strengthen kids’ muscles, develop their coordination, and boost gross motor skills like climbing, jumping, and pulling up.
Water toys. Splashing around in the water is fun and refreshing, but it also has many benefits for kids. They help children learn science concepts such as floating and sinking, as well as math concepts like empty and full, more and less, and measuring. They also develop gross motor skills by running through sprinklers and jumping in pools, and fine motor skills when they pour water in and out of buckets. And it's a fun sensory experience in which they can learn about textures, temperature, and more. So give your kids lots of opportunities for water play with water tables, pool toys, sprinklers, and other water toys. Just be sure to supervise children around water!
And remember, being outdoors has many of the same benefits for grown-ups as it does for kids, so get outside and play with your children!