Outdoor recreation is an important but often neglected activity in the family calendar; there are just so many hurdles and barriers that can make organising an outdoor activity far too difficult.
However, the benefit of outdoor recreation pays dividends.
Outdoor play, whether it’s a sporting activity or family hike, has been linked to physical and mental health benefits. Studies show that people who regularly get outside for some old-fashioned fun have fewer doctor’s visits, have healthier body mass indexes and better heart health than those who don’t.
So why is it so important for children and families to take time for outdoor recreation?
You need to start good behaviours early
Children are mimics by nature, so encouraging them to take up the habit of going outside to play from a young age will help create life-long patterns of behaviour.
Children that associate rewarding, positive experiences with outdoor recreation are more likely to keep at it for longer – so getting your child to swap their tablet computer for a game of backyard cricket should be easy.
We’re losing the battle of the bulge
Sedentary and technology-driven lifestyles are doing more than just making adults fat, this lifestyle is negatively impacting children.
A 2015 study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that over a quarter of all children aged 5-17 were overweight or obese, and with more children opting to play indoors on gaming consoles this problem is only expected to get worse.
Along with reducing the frequency of highly processed foods in children’s diets, physical activity and play is seen as a major counterbalance to this terrible trend.
Play encourages spatial, physical learning
Exploring outdoor spaces, climbing, crawling, hiding and running all encourage important skills that improve dexterity, balance and strength. From negotiating climbing frames to making their first tightrope cross, children who play have better bodily control and are more confident when it comes to playing sports.
Play areas offer a neutral, social space for families
There’s nothing quite like having a friendly catch-up in the park between families.
Offering the best of outdoor entertainment, without a huge price tag, playgrounds function as an important social space for parents, carers and children to meet new friends and have fun in a family-friendly place.
Whether it’s a picnic in the park or a birthday celebration, playgrounds become the centrepiece to many a-child’s favourite summer memories.
Play encourages social inclusion and skills
Children learn important life-long social skills when it comes to negotiating the different personalities that may visit the playground.
From getting a bossy-boots to share their favourite swing, to encouraging a quiet achiever to play a game of tag, children quickly learn the importance of sharing and spreading good cheer.
Expands creative and imaginative thinking
Some parents like to think that children need the best gadgets and the games to be entertained.
That’s not quite the case; children thrive on using their imagination to turn a playground into their own secret space station, shipwreck, castle or jungle. Like any muscle, imagination needs practise; the more we encourage our children to use their imagination, the better they can become at creative and critical thinking.
Part of a balanced lifestyle
Outdoor recreation isn’t just great for physical health, it has also been shown to improve mental health.
The act of letting loose, having fun and exploring are enjoyable activities which act as a great counterbalance to the stresses of responsibilities – and that goes for children too!
Regular and adequate exercise has been known to improve sleeping patterns, concentration, appetite, the ability to handle challenges, and more.