AHS Weekly Wellness News: Playing Outside Fuels a Child’s Curiosity


For generations, parents have been telling their children to “go outside and play.” It’s good advice: playing outside is a big part of healthy childhood development. And it’s fun.

“Children are eager to understand how the world works and they do this through play,” says Laura Crawford, provincial lead for Play and Physical Literacy for the Early Years at Alberta Health Services. “Outdoor play fuels curiosity, problem solving and social skills.”

Young kids, from toddlers to six years old, discover all kinds of new things while they’re climbing, swinging, running or riding their bikes. Playing outside helps them develop basic movement skills. And as they master the monkey bars, they’re also building self-confidence.

Children need lots of play time. “From ages one to four, children need at least three hours of activity over the course of the day,” Crawford says. “Children five and older need at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.”

Some of that play can be structured and led by an adult so children can learn how to do a new skill or activity. “Structured activities are things such as going to the park and kicking a ball, throwing a ball, playing soccer or learning to swim or ride a bike.”

But it’s also important for children to have plenty of unstructured play, such as running around or using their imagination to invent brand new games and activities. Crawford suggests allowing most play to be unstructured.

As a parent, you can watch, wait and listen as your child plays. Watch to see what your child is interested in and what he may be struggling with. Wait to see how you can offer support, but give him time to practise and see if he can figure it out on his own. Finally, listen to him describe his game or suggest how you can play along or help. Follow his lead.

Source Alberta Health ServicesApple Magazine