It’s no secret that I love doing activities with my kids during our family adventures, but many of our outings have no plans at all. I believe it’s important to let kids explore nature on their own so they are given the chance to think creatively and find their own fun. There are so many physical, mental, social, and cognitive benefits to letting your children roam free outdoors. We recently spent the morning at the Retzer Nature Center. Here are some benefits I observed during our visit.
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There aren’t many times in life that getting dirty is celebrated! Childhood is a magical time when jumping in puddles and digging in dirt is (hopefully) encouraged. My boys LOVE getting their hands dirty and there have been many studies that discuss the health benefits of playing in dirt. However I have to mention that as much as I love letting my boys loose, I don’t love having to change their outfits every five minutes due to wet muddy clothes! This Oakiwear rain suit has been a complete game changer and allows my boys to stay warm and dry even when they fall into puddles. It’s so nice to be able to take the suits off before they get in the car and have clean clothes underneath for the ride home. I’m also guessing it helps protect my boys against ticks and other bugs because it covers their bodies and velcros tightly around their boots.
When children are given the chance to choose their own outdoor activities, they have the opportunity to collaborate and work together to achieve a common goal. Sonny said, “Come on Leo. Let’s make these piles bigger!” The boys had fun working together and adding to the many piles of branches in the pine tree area of the nature center. Building these social skills will help them throughout life in many situations.
Develop Fine and Gross Motor Skills
There are so many opportunities to develop fine and gross motor skills during free play in nature. Climbing trees alone is such a great way to strengthen muscles! Children rely on fine and gross motor skills during physical play, so get outdoors to keep them healthy and strong!
Outdoor free play gives children the opportunity to explore and find their own adventures! My boys have different interests and are given the freedom to choose their own activities when outdoors. Leo is currently obsessed with throwing anything and everything into water. Here he is throwing rock number 103 into the stream!
Sonny has just discovered the fun of climbing trees and large rocks. He found the neatest branch to climb and explore!
My oldest son has always been a rather cautions child, but my little one is definitely a dare devil! Free outdoor play gives children the chance to access risk and manage different situations. Leo is constantly testing the boundaries, which gives him the opportunity to learn from his successes and failures.
It’s rare that my boys are so interested in something that they become quiet observers. The second we go outdoors, my boys become little scientists inspecting objects closely with magnifying glasses and looking at everything in sight with wonder! It’s fun to watch them make new discoveries and witness their reactions. Here Sonny is looking at an uprooted tree. There were so many bugs and plant life to check out!
I hope you and your little nature lover get outdoors and play today!
If this topic interests you, check out these awesome books:
“Balanced and Barefoot” by Angela J. Hanscom
“Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv