The importance of active outdoor play

Does Baby have a favorite cartoon character? Many toddlers enjoy some time in front of the TV, computer, tablet or phone screen, taking in the sights and sounds. What’s not to love? Bright colors, catchy songs, and familiar faces are some of a toddler’s favorite things. The American Academy of Pediatrics says parents who wish to do so may start to introduce small amounts of educational television when children are 18 months old, but if screen time is a part of your child’s life, it should be just one of many activities he enjoys. The AAP also emphasizes that parents should “prioritize creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers.”

Play at this age encourages thinking and imagination, and encouraging a variety of types of play helps develop Baby’s brain during this dynamic stage when he is full of curiosity. While television engages his senses of sight and sound, it’s generally not a fully active engagement, and it’s important to appeal to his other senses, too. Outdoor play allows the opportunity for children to not only see and hear, but also to smell, touch, and even taste – whether it’s something they should be tasting or not.

Another benefit of outdoor play is designating a time for your toddler to get up and move around. Children build muscle and coordination outdoors by running, jumping, and climbing. Physical activity is also an important counterpoint to a healthy, balanced diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity affects 1 in 6 children in the United States. Teaching your toddler that exercise can be fun now may help reduce the risk of health issues such as obesity and heart disease in the future.

Outdoor play also introduces Baby to objects and activities he would not see indoors, like a bird flying in the sky, or a flower growing out of the soil as he digs through the garden. Exposing Baby to new sights and sounds is a great way to help him learn about the world and talking to him about what he is doing and seeing helps expand his vocabulary.

Activities for a great time in the great outdoors

  • Take a nature walk: When you’re on your way to the next part of your day, let Baby out of the stroller to take in the beauty around him from right up close. Crunching leaves, catching bugs, and smelling flowers might add a little extra time to your trip, but giving Baby a little extra time to enjoy the world around him isn’t time that’s wasted.
  • Paint rocks: Many parents find themselves cringing at the idea of indoor art projects, so why not take this one outside? Have fun collecting (and counting) rocks, then sit down with some finger paints to let your little artist add his own personal touch.
  • Blow bubbles: Outdoor bubble machines can be lots of fun, but even a regular tube of bubble solution and a bubble wand, or a bubble wand in some dish soap and water, can seem magical to a toddler. Your little one can enjoy chasing and popping them, and will burn off a little energy as he does so.
  • Play in the snow: If you feel cooped up during the winter, try bundling Baby up and taking him outside to see the snow. He can have a blast helping you build a snowman, learning to make snow angels, or even just being pulled in a sled.
  • Be free: Who needs plans when you have a sense of adventure? That’s right – just run, jump, and skip through the park. Children are often told not to run in the house, and to use their indoor voices, so get outside and let it go. It’s perfectly fine to use that pent up energy outdoors!

Sources
  • Council on Communications And Media. “Media and Young Minds.” Pediatrics. 138(5). Web. November 2016.
  • “Childhood Obesity Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web.

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