Warmer weather is showing its pretty face, making it a natural time for outdoor play. According to Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident and Capable Children, outdoor play is exactly what kids of all ages need.

Because they play outside far less than children did 30 years ago, they are struggling to develop strength and balance. In an interview with CBC Radio, Hanscom says this lack of play time has also brought about a shift in children’s behavior. The child that can’t seem to pay attention or constantly squirms in his seat? She or he most likely needs some outdoor play.

Outdoor play is instrumental in:

  • developing strength
  • understanding reflexes
  • improving concentration
  • good balance

More and more children are presenting with sensory issues these days. They are not moving like they did in years past. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, spinning in circles just for fun, or climbing trees at great heights. In fact, our society often discourages this type of play due to liability issues and fear of falls.

And while it’s tempting to hover over our children, keep them on a short leash with a list of outside play dos and don’ts, it’s critical for parents to refrain from imposing those limitations. Why? Given the time and freedom play without a list of “rules”, kids intuitively engage in the activities their bodies need most. Jumping, running, biking and even skateboarding all contribute to healthy development. Not to mention, nature is the ultimate sensory experience!

Activities such as climbing trees, swinging and being active can be simulated indoors in sensory gyms and by working with occupational therapists. However, when children engage in these activities outdoors, all of their senses are engaged – and their lives are enriched.

“My recommendation is at least three hours of outdoor play a day and do whatever you can to just get the kids outside.” Angela Hanscom