I am not an outdoorsy kind of girl. If there’s an opposite to “outdoorsy”, that is me. Indoorsy? Is that a thing? Let’s go with that. I am indoorsy. I choose dinner parties over picnics, yoga over hiking, and reading on the couch over laying on a beach towel in the sun. The sun-kissed, brown-as-a-berry skin I enjoyed up to the age of about 11 is but a distant memory. Pale and proud; that’s my jam.
For the last 18 months, this indoorsy girl has also been a mother. As an immobile baby, my son became very familiar with the confines of our home, of cafes and shopping centres, of friends’ houses and the local library. When he began walking, he was initially content with laps around the house and trips to indoor play centres. But pretty soon, he wanted more. He would stand banging on the back door, begging to be let outside. It was ingrained in him; he yearned to be outside. And so we began making trips out into the yard. Trips to the park. Trips to the beach. And my son became a wild boy.
When he goes outside, he comes alive. He runs, he tumbles, he explores. He gets dirt on his hands and knees. He sits and watches beetles in the grass. He splashes in the mud. He cries when it’s time to go back inside. And despite my indoorsy tendencies, going outside with him has become one of my favourite things.
I recently watched the short film “Canvas of my Life”, featuring the actor Jason Momoa talking about his creative childhood, and the way he is now raising his kids to be wild, free creatives. And despite the fact that it’s actually just a super-long ad for Carhartt pants, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. Because for all my love of air conditioning and cups of tea, nothing beats a shot of a pack of happy kids racing through the woods and climbing rocks with big, wild grins plastered across their faces. That’s the kind of joy I want for my kid.
There are a number genuine of benefits to outside play, too.
1. It’s active
Put a kid in the confines of four walls with a bunch of toys, and he will sit and play. Let him loose in a yard with grass, trees and dirt, and he’s unstoppable. Kids are natural explorers, and they just love to run. Being outside lends itself to active play.
2. It’s sensory
They can smell the grass, hear the birds and cicadas, feel the wind on their face and crunch leaves beneath their feet. Outside play fully engages all the senses – yep, even picking up a handful of dirt for a sneaky taste counts!
3. It’s healthy
They soak up some good old vitamin D, they inhales bucket loads of fresh air, and they stretch those little limbs in new ways, which contributes to their muscle development.
4. It’s interesting
Our outside environments are subject to constant change – changes in the weather, new weeds popping up between the pavement, new leaves falling from the shrubbery. There are always holes to be dug, ants to be trailed behind and flowers to be picked. The engagement is endless!
5. It’s confidence-building
Outside play is often quite independent, which gives kids a massive sense of self-confidence as they learn their capabilities and test their limits.
The benefits of outside play are endless, and so important for developing kids. These days I aim to get outside with my son at least twice per day – and I have to say I think I enjoy it almost as much as he does! So let’s hold that thought on my “pale and proud” skin – I just might end up revisiting that berry-brown glow after all!