Making the most of outdoor play

For many of us, as children, outdoor play would take up a large part of our day. We’d climb trees, play hide-and-seek, and kick a ball around the park until the sun went down. However, these days, children are less likely to spend time outdoors, which means they’re missing out on vital health benefits, such as getting active and exposure to vitamin D from the sun. They’re also missing out on opportunities to connect with the outdoors and build good life-long habits. You can change that and here are some ideas for making the most of outdoor play: 

1. Make it routine 

Creating a regular routine that includes outdoor play can help children grow to appreciate and enjoy spending time outside. Try setting a specific time every day for outdoor play, such as after school or after dinner. This will help your child develop a routine that includes fresh air and exercise and get them excited to spend time outdoors. 

2. Simple is best 

Encouraging your child to spend time outside can be easy. Children will be happy to play with simple objects, such as balls, ropes, and swings. These items are easy to find and provide endless hours of entertainment. In addition, provide your child with the opportunity to use their imagination, as they’ll quickly come up with their own games and activities. 

3. Get involved and have fun together 

You can get involved in outdoor play by joining in the games and activities your children enjoy. For example, you can join in on a game of soccer, go for a family bike ride, or garden together. Getting involved will demonstrate to your child that you value outdoor play and create positive, long-lasting memories. 

4. Go outdoors, whatever the weather 

Weather should never be an obstacle when it comes to outdoor play. With the right clothing and accessories, children can enjoy playing in almost any weather condition. Even on a rainy day, children can put on their rain boots and jump in puddles or build a shelter and read a book under it. Read more about Parenting your kids in all weathers <FH39 Link to Parenting your kids in all weathers > 

5. Let them explore 

Encouraging your child to explore the natural world around them is an incredible opportunity for them to learn and grow. Take them on nature walks, and encourage them to observe the animals and plants they see. Help them identify different birds, trees, and flowers. These experiences will create a love for nature, and help children develop a respect for the environment. 

6. Embrace variety 

Children thrive when they enjoy a variety of activities. Outdoor play offers lots of chances to switch things up and provide endless new experiences. Mixing up the games and activities can help keep your child stay interested and excited about outdoor play. Some great ideas include doing a treasure hunt in the garden, going on a minibeast safari ot visiting one of Oldham’s fantastic parks 

7. Be safe 

Making sure your child is safe is critical when children are playing outdoors. Make sure that play areas are safe, and that you’re watching your child. It’s also important to teach children basic safety rules, like looking both ways before crossing the road, wearing helmets when riding bikes, and never playing with electrical wires or sockets. 

8. Making friends 

Playing with friends and people their own age is an important part of your child’s development. Encourage them to socialise and meet new friends while playing outside. These experiences can help your child develop important social skills and create new friendships. Take them to the park, invite friends over to play take them to activity clubs or local sports clubs. During school holidays, you could sign them up for one of the Holiday Activities and Food sessions 

9. Use technology to your advantage 

If your child loves technology, use it to develop your child’s the outdoor experience. Consider using apps that can identify different animal species or provide information on local walks. This can be a fun way to learn about nature and different outdoor activities. There are lots available from the Apple and Google app store for all ages. Try the WWF Seek app or iNaturalist 

10. Make it fun 

Outdoor play should always be fun. Encourage your child to play and explore in ways that are enjoyable for them. Children that feel pressured to participate in activities they don’t enjoy may develop negative associations with outdoor play. Making it fun and letting your child take the lead can help create a positive and enjoyable experience. 

Encouraging children to spend time outside helps them connect with nature, develop important social skills and create positive memories. Parents can utilise these tips to help their children make the most out of outdoor play, and develop an appreciation for the great outdoors that will last a lifetime. 

Head to one of Oldham’s fantastic parks or greenspaces.