Most of us lead indoor lives. We go from the house to the car to the store or the office. The brief moments when we breathe fresh air and feel outdoor temperatures are vastly outweighed by the amount of time we spend in our climate-controlled buildings and cars. We walk on perfectly flat floors, encounter predictable objects, and encounter a relatively low number of unusual things. All this is also true for our children. But going outside boosts your child’s development in ways that you can’t easily get any other way. Here are some of the thoughts from our preschool in Upper Darby on how lots of outside time helps your child’s development.
Going outside boosts gross and fine motor coordination
When your child walks on perfectly flat floors all the time indoors, their brains don’t learn about all the micro adjustments that they need to make to keep their balance. Outside, even a flat, grassy lawn has slight bumps and dips. These promote the brain’s ability to integrate the visual information from your child’s eyes with the gross motor muscle movements that they need to make to stay upright. This is even more true when your child is walking on a hill or navigating ground that has large stones.
Fine motor coordination also happens naturally outside. It takes a lot of fine motor skill to pick a blade of grass, pluck a delicate flower, or pick up a tiny ant. If you see your child doing these things, encourage them! In the preschool years, if they develop the ability to pick up that tiny shiny rock, they’ll be ahead when they get to school and need to hold a pencil.
Going outside provides sensory development
When a child is indoors all the time, the only things they encounter are manufactured items. This limits the range of textures, temperatures, and smells that they will have the chance to touch, feel, and smell. Think about the materials that you can find in your home. Wood, plastic, carpet, glass, and metal don’t have the textures that you automatically find when you go outside. Your child needs the sensory development provided by shaggy grass, rough tree bark, gritty sand, a wet dog’s nose, and all the other things they’ll find outside.
Going outside promotes your child’s imagination
Have you ever watched a child pick up a stick and play with it endlessly, while that battery-powered singing toy only holds their attention for two seconds? What is it about the simple things you find outdoors that children love? Whatever it is, playing with a simple thing like a stick means that your child is using their imagination to make the object interesting. Developing your child’s imagination will help them all through their lives, increase their problem-solving ability, and improve their ability to play independently.
If you’re not in the regular habit of taking your kids outside, why not start? Their brains will love it!