The benefits of toddlers spending time outside
It’s no secret that more and more children these days are spending less time outside and this isn’t only older children. An Ofcom study in 2016 found that pre school children aged 3-4yrs are spending over 8 hours per week on line – an increase of over 1.5hrs compared to 2015. In addition to this, 34% of 3-4 year olds own their own tablet or games console.
These shocking stats coupled with the equally worrying fact that only 1 in 9 children in England have not set foot in any kind of outdoor natural environment for at least 12 months prove that it’s time to get our children outside as early as possible in their lives. In doing so the environment will become second nature to them and they will hopefully carry the appreciation of the wonderful outdoors through into their adolescent years and beyond.
There are huge benefits to be gained from immersing your toddler in the outside world and in particular, woodlands, which offer stimulation for every one of the senses. These benefits are more than just the obvious active fitness, they go much deeper than this. There have been many studies over the years which, without fail, have all shown that children who regularly play outside are smarter, happier, healthier, more confident and less anxious.
So what are the benefits for a toddler who regularly plays outside? The answer is almost immeasurable, but the key areas are: Confidence, Social Skills, Self Discovery and Knowledge and Understanding. Let’s look at them in more detail;
Confidence – due to the lack of need for a regimented system and structure when playing outdoors, toddlers can choose how they want to play, who they want to play with and what they want to play with and in doing so they gain more control. This control results in them experimenting more, making more decisions for themselves and having the freedom to learn and grow as individuals which in turn builds their confidence.
Social Skills – Toddlers have only just embarked on their journey into understanding the world around them and in particular interacting with other children. Group outdoor activities often require children to share toys, work together on tasks or take part in group activities. As adults, we know that this can sometimes be tricky, especially if the group are not familiar with one another. Putting toddlers into that same scenario will, at times when the actions of individuals might negatively affect others, increase their awareness of the consequences of actions and over time help learn cooperation, resilience, communication and negotiation skills.
Self Discovery – When playing outside, toddlers have the freedom of choice in and that freedom leads to them discovering what they, as individuals, like and don’t like, what they want and don’t want to do, what makes them want to engage with something and how they like to interact with others. Starting to understand these preferences is the beginning of their journey of self-discovery.
Knowledge and Understanding – In a world that is gradually being overtaken by technology, developing an understanding of and respect for the natural world will help to ensure it remains intact for future generations. Being exposed to seasonal changes, learning how to identify different plant and insect species and understanding the lifecycle of nature all contribute to children feeling a closer connection with the natural world and this closer relationship will foster a greater appreciation and desire to protect it.
There is no other environment that can create such a unique sense of wonder for children – not even a computer screen!
If you are interested in your toddler joining in some fun outdoor activities and you live in the Liphook area, Brookham School are running Woodland Activity sessions every Thursday morning. For more details, contact Abi.