The phrase “Why don’t you go outside and play?” are timeless words from a mama’s mouth. But when it’s not a perfectly sunny summer day, there aren’t friends around, or they just want YOU, it can be a challenge to get your child through the door. I recently visited TimberNook, a child-led, sensory play program nestled in the woods about 15 minutes out of Saskatoon to learn a little more about them, why outdoor play is irreplaceable, and what we as parents can do to encourage it. Read on for a peek at their program and their top five suggestions on making our own backyards more engaging!
Here are TimberNook’s top reasons why children need the outdoors:
To help maintain a healthy weight. Kids are more motivated to move when they are outside in big spaces!
It supports vision. By having children focus up close and then far away in the woods it develops their visual skills needed later for reading
Mental health improves by improving mood and decreasing anxiety. Just 5 minutes outside decreases cortisol (stress) levels in the body.
Physical health improves. It encourages development of fine and gross motor skills through big body movement and small hand movements from picking up pinecones to carrying large sticks!
Cognitive health improves. Children have more opportunities to make decisions and problem solve because parents are not hovering over them.
Social skills are heightened. The levels of sharing and cooperation in outdoor play with other kids is incredible.
Creativity is heightened. There are simply more opportunities for imaginative play.
TimberNook’s 5 ways to have a more engaging backyard (visit We Have Kids for more ideas):
Add dirt or sand! It provides heavy work which is calming and can be used in endless ways.
Add natural elements such as wood chips, wood cookies, logs.
Add loose parts such as old kitchen cookwares, cardboard boxes, and planks,
Add pint size tools like small garden rakes, shovels, stubby tools
Add freedom. Let them play. Make suggestions or set up areas for them but overall, let them be free to play as they please.
Thanks to TimberNook Saskatoon for having Paris and I in and for sharing this great info and advice. Now, no matter the weather, let’s try to put it to use!