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Why Children Need to Play Outdoors

Playing outdoors is not just a good way for children to burn off some energy. (Even though it's a nice side effect.) Playing outside is important for real!

Suddenly, one day, you hear yourself say "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes!" The old saying gives you 100 points straight into your adult points account and in about 10-20 years your children will thank you. The lessons they learn during outdoor playtime are carried with them throughout their entire lives.

Run, Jump, Crawl, and Do Cartwheels

When children play outdoors, they develop their fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and balance. They jump over rocks, crawl under branches, and run as fast as their legs can carry them. For younger children, it's challenging enough to learn to maintain balance on the slightly uneven surface of a lawn.

Freedom to Fantasize

As an adult, you can sit quietly and enjoy a warm cup of coffee while your children play. Many times, children play best outdoors when adults are not in charge but instead give their imaginations free reign. A pinecone and a few sticks become a horse, and the stones in the gravel path are the horse's food.

Being outdoors represents freedom. Being able to move wherever they want and explore freely develops children's self-esteem and self-confidence.

Feel, Smell, See, Listen - and Maybe Taste a Little

Outdoors, it's easy for children to use all their senses in play. Children learn better when they use several senses at the same time.

The sand in the sandbox is first dry and warm, then wet and cold. It crackles funnily when I dig into it with the shovel. The sand smells damp, like when it rains outside. I wonder how it tastes... No, yuck!

Playing Outside Keeps the Germs at Bay

When there are no walls to stop them, physical activity starts almost by itself. Children who play outside and move a lot stay healthier and sleep better at night.

Did you know that outdoor play in spring and summer is especially important for us Northerners? You probably know that the body produces vitamin D in the skin with the help of the sun's rays. But during the dark season, the sun is not strong enough for our bodies to create vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed for children to build a strong skeleton and stay healthy. Outdoor play during the brighter time of year builds up children's vitamin D reserves (yes, even if they play in the shade!), so it lasts well into autumn and winter too.

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Tips for Outdoor Play for Children - Our Best Play Tips!

The most important reason to play outdoors, of course, is that it's fun! Here are our six best outdoor games for children and playful adults.

Fun outdoor games:

Elk Hunt

You know it’s finally spring when the winter hats and jackets go in a box in the loft. But this year, the season is threatened by hungry elk who plan to eat every single spring flower they can find. Everyone knows how much elk love picture perfect spring flowers. Can you stop them?

How to play:

One child is the elk, one adult is the florist and everyone else is a beautiful spring flower.

The florist whispers the name of a type of flower to each child in turn without the elk hearing: cowslip, thimbleweed, or snowdrop, for example. The flowers then line up in a large circle around the florist and the game starts. When the florist shouts “thimbleweed” for example, all thimbleweeds run towards the florist while the elk tries to catch one of them before they make it to the florist's shelter. If any flower gets eaten, they immediately turn into another elk and help the original elk catch more flowers.

The round is over when all the spring flowers have either been eaten or gathered around the florist in a beautiful spring bouquet.

Tip! As a florist, you can think strategically. You could shout “snowdrops”, for example, even though all the flowers are cowslips, or vice versa. Whatever you can to confuse and tire out the elk!

Insect Watching

As an insect watcher, you can discover everything that crawls, flies and wriggles in the garden, park or forest. And if you document your finds like a real discoverer, you’ll get a fun book to keep for later. A playful project now and later!

Decorate a notebook with pencils, stickers and other lovely little bits and bobs or buy a really nice one. Welcome to your new insect book!

Pack your insect book and some snacks into your backpack, head out on an excursion and see what you find! Every time you find a new insect, draw it on a new page in the book. Invent your own name for it and think about what it likes to do.

With older children, you can end the day by looking through the book together and, with the help of a real insect book or the internet, working out the real names of the insects they’ve found.

Outdoor Treasure Hunt

The natural world is full of treasure! When you play out in the woods, garden or park, all finds are equally special.

How to play:

Make game boards with nine squares each for all of the treasures you want treasure hunters to find in the forest or other natural area in which you’re playing. If there are lots of hunters at different ages, you can make different boards with different levels of difficulty. The treasure to be found can include:

  • A pine cone
  • A really long stick
  • Something red
  • Some moss
  • An insect
  • A mushroom
  • Poo
  • Something that doesn’t belong in the forest
  • Something that starts with the letter…

The first person to fill all the boxes wins and is crowned Supreme Treasure Hunter. The winner gets to decide what yummy cakes everyone should eat at the picnic later.

Don’t Touch the Floor

It's time for athletes big and small to warm up because it’s time for Don’t Touch the Floor. Jump on the spot, have a good stretch and take a couple of high jumps. You’re ready for the challenge!

How to play:

Everyone knows that Pippi Longstocking is the Don’t Touch the Floor champion! Pippi usually plays indoors, but you can set up a tricky course out in the garden, woods or playground.

Ready, set, go! Go down the slide, balance across the planks, climb a rock, tiptoe round the sandpit and finish with a thrilling final sprint on a hobbyhorse. How many times can you make it round without touching the ground?

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Bocce

A fun outdoor game that’s great for groups big and small.

To play bocce outdoors, you need:

  • At least two playful people
  • A tennis ball
  • Blocks of a certain colour
  • A second set of blocks of a different colour
  • String or a stick

Divide into teams. One team gets the green blocks and the other gets the yellow blocks (or whatever colours you’ve chosen). Divide the blocks evenly between everyone who’s going to play.

Lay out the string or stick as a marker. No one’s allowed to stand in front of this point. A random person throws the tennis ball.

Take it in turns throwing your blocks towards the tennis ball. The aim is to get your blocks to land as close to the tennis ball as possible. If a yellow block ends up closest, the yellow team has won, and vice versa.

The person who throws the block that lands closest to the tennis ball gets to throw the tennis ball out in the next round.

Vary the number of blocks and colours according to how many of you are playing. If you don’t have any blocks, take cones, sticks or anything else you find.

Remember to bring the blocks back in when you’ve finished playing. Blocks love the feeling of being out in the breeze but get sad about being forgotten.

 

Build a Farm

Moo! The cows are feeling lonely and want some more friends. Plus, they’re freezing and need somewhere to live.

How to play:

Start by looking for good building materials, and then just see how it goes!

Put four small sticks in an apple and you have a pig. Do the same with a pinecone and it could be a horse. You might need a hammer and some nails to hold some things together.

Some sticks on the ground can become a farmhouse or pasture for the animals. And of course, the animals will need some food too. They usually love leaves and grass!