Unstructured and self-directed play-time is crucial for fostering the ability for self-motivated, enjoyment-based and freely imaginative activity. Given time to themselves, children can develop a strong sense of their own reality. Play like this helps kids to absorb, process and make sense of the information they encounter.
- The motor and coordination skills developed by outdoor play are linked to awareness in assessing and engaging with physical environments. Children who play outdoors have practical aptitude for observing, assessing and competently handling risk.
- Play provides an space to increase self confidence – children gain a sense of their ability to exert control over themselves and their environment, set and overcome challenges. Learning to deal with appropriate levels of risk, the experience of discomfort, and sometimes injury, develops virtues of courage and resilience.
- Intrinsic motivation and resilience develop independence and autonomy. It develops self-esteem and the capacity for self-assertion. Awareness of their own powers and limitations enhances children’s ability to recognize the same in others.
- The outdoors provides limitless potential for discovery and exploration. It confronts children with positive experiences of vitality and complexity, but it imposes no agenda on them. This is in stark contrast to the artificial stimulus and imposed decision-making often presented by digital entertainment.
- A creative engagement with nature is instrumental in building a strong sense of self and reality, and this is the basis of understanding and communicating concepts about the world. Such concepts are the building blocks of later success in social and educational situations.
Note: Information presented here is based on research findings, reports and literature views from leading UK and US charities and education organizations. You can access these reports at Play England and the Children & Nature Network.