Computers, television and video games are fast becoming a major element in children’s play as more and more children are spending their playtime indoors and in front of a screen. Nowadays in metropolitan areas across the country, children are less likely to have access to natural surroundings and green spaces. Rosemary Davis is the Director in charge of the NSW Government’s eleven sport and recreation centres – community facilities boasting many hundreds of hectares of pristine countryside. She says: “The outdoors provides limitless potential for discovery and exploration. It confronts children with positive experiences of vitality and complexity, but imposes no agenda on them.
There are three types of outdoor play, backyard play, playground play and wild nature play. Backyard unstructured, free play allows children to use their imaginations whilst building dexterity and physical strength. The playground and nature are the best places for children to take advantage of open spaces and fine tune their motor skills by being physical and adventurous. They can freely practise running, climbing, swinging, jumping and learn ball handling skills such as throwing and catching.
In Australia we have an abundance of bushland and a magnificent natural outdoor environment for children to immerse themselves in. Rosemary says “Parents can play a significant role by getting kids out of the house and down to the park, buying them active gifts such as bicycles, skipping ropes, Frisbees and sporting equipment”.
Here are ten fun ways for parents to encourage children to experience the great outdoors:
- Create a homemade tent. Find an area where children can make their own tent or cubby house. You’ll need a couple of old sheets, clothes pegs a blanket and some rope.
- Plant something and watch it grow. Children love to participate in the process of growing things in a garden. Many schools are encouraging children to be involved in school gardens.
- Try water painting. All children need for this activity is a bucket of water and a brush. Children can paint the side of a building, learn about evaporation and exercise at the same time.
- Create a simple treasure hunt. A treasure hunt can also be played indoors, if you are really struggling to find space but its best to be played outdoors. Hide treasure and plant clues for children to use their cognitive skills and imagination.
- Design and build an obstacle course. If you have access to a backyard or park, why not set up a mini obstacle course? You can use old tyres, pillows, cardboard boxes, chairs, buckets, hoops and rope.
- Plan and take part in an Australian Bush Walk. A bush walk is an excellent way for children to discover and appreciate our unique natural environment.
- Plan a sporting match or join a sporting club. Children can develop their sporting skills and learn how to work as part of a team. It will keep them on their toes and encourage physical activity.
- Discover camp. NSW Sport and Recreation Centres are a great way for your child to get active, try different experiences and meet new friends. They will develop skills in a fun, secure and professionally run environment.
- Visit Go Play. A FREE activities calendar for parents and care-givers which features lots of affordable, family-friendly, educational and fun outdoor activities for the whole family. Mobile users can download the free Go Play iPhone app at the App store.
- Book an active family holiday. NSW Sport and Recreation Centres offer family camps and self-contained accommodation. You can book for a small or large group. Enjoy an adventurous family holiday and learn abseiling, kayaking and canoeing.