by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”
Every day, weather permitting, children benefit from playing outside. Their fun outside involves a wide variety of play. Playtime outside depends upon where you live, access to parks or a safe yard and available supervision. Children need a wide range of activities for maximum growth.
Children like to play in different ways, from rough and tumble to gentle games of “pretend.” They like to play organized sports and activities. They like to walk and to run, skip and jump rope. They like to throw balls. They like to play with forts, they like to climb or to just sit under a tree and daydream or just read a book.
The outdoors toys that you pick for your children depend upon their age, skill level and geography. Certainly, a push/pull toy is fun to play with outdoors. Shovels and pails for water and sand are great.
You can help your child expand their fun and sense of themselves by starting with a tricycle. Tricycles can develop mobility, physical dexterity, independence and children’s feelings of pride in their new accomplishments.
Traditional products like a jump rope are great for physical skills building, both in coordination and in teamwork with other children. This is also true when you introduce a basketball, softball or other outdoor ball for play. For the very young child, just throwing the ball back and forth is a great experience.
Other activities that can be enjoyed would include binoculars and outdoor gear. This is part of observation skills building, including hobbies like bird watching. With binoculars, children can learn much about birds and other animals, which can lead to a lifetime interest.
Clubhouse activities don’t have to be elaborate; just having a space to play outdoors allows for adventure play. An outdoor playspace can be a cardboard box, a mass-produced clubhouse or a project that you and your child create together out of found of recycled materials. These kinds of outdoor activities can be lots of fun and can extend play for a long time.
Climbing equipment and other exercise toys give your children a variety of ways to develop physical dexterity and physical expression. There are climbing gyms available that are safe, colorful and fun. Selecting this equipment takes some time, but it is also time you can share with your child as you supervise them.
Cameras are very useful products for outdoors, where your children can learn to take pictures and observe more closely what they see. Encouraging a variety of interests can lead to a lifetime hobby and expand their curiosity.
Children can also paint outside. This is a fun activity on a nice day, and easels make it easier. Whatever types of toys that you select, make sure that they can hold up to the wear and tear of the outdoors. They should be easily cleaned, and they should have all safety aspects checked.
It is important to balance playtime indoors and outdoors. Outdoor play gives children extra benefits and should be encouraged as much as possible.
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