Within childhood education and development fields, the principle that free play is one of the best methods whereby children learn and develop is widely accepted. Free play occurs most spontaneously in outdoor settings where little adult supervision is required. It is important that children have the opportunity during the day to experience spontaneous play where they can utilize their creative potential and safely explore the world around them. During outdoor play, children have the freedom to yell and run, and they are encouraged to be more enthusiastic and energetic. Outdoor play allows children to experience the world in which they live through sounds, textures, smells, and hands-on interaction. Research indicates that playing outdoors can enhance both the psychological and emotional well-being of children.

Children reap many benefits from outdoor play. Not only do they expend energy and exercise their bodies, but they also learn, grow and develop through outdoor play. Outdoor play is essential to motor skill development in children. During outdoor play, children practice physical skills such as running and climbing. While adults often have to remind children of the hazards of certain actions, it is often the case that children will have to learn through mistakes. Children learn risk management while participating in various types of outdoor activities. With practice, the child can learn to master the skill and experience the satisfaction of overcoming a previously difficult task.

Outdoor play can enhance a child’s intellectual and cognitive development. The outdoors provides endless prospects for exploration and discovery. Children are able to discover how things work, and they also have the occasion to learn about plants, animals, insects, and the environment in general. Children may discover how long it takes them to run a certain distance or how much sand a pail will hold. Perhaps they will have the chance to see a bird building a nest or watching a garden grown. The possibilities for learning in an outdoor setting are unlimited. While playing outdoors children exercise both their bodies and their brains.

Social development and interaction are also important aspects of outdoor play. Children learn to differentiate between behaviors that are appropriate outdoors and those that are appropriate indoors. Sharing, negotiating and communication are all important ideas that children learn while playing with other children. Additionally, children can begin to experience independence. They can begin to assess who they are in relation to others and who they are independent. This is important in the development of friendships and this also helps the child to build confidence in their abilities.

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