Don’t Feel Guilty When You Tell Your Kids to Go Outside and Play

Val Mullally

June 26, 2020

go outside and play

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When your child is bored, don’t feel guilty when you tell your kids to go outside and play! I would like to share with you four key benefits of outdoor play and why it matters for children to develop to their fullest potential.

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“Go outside and play!”

Do you remember your parents saying that?

And that’s what we did – we went outside and we played! For hours on end my sister and I would play “Sixes” with a tennis ball, or rounders with the children in our neighbourhood. We were imaginary pirates, or cowboys, or racing drivers. We raced round the garden, we played in the mud, we swung from the trees, we clambered over the old car in the back-yard. Our parents had probably not studied Child Development but they knew what children needed to thrive when they said, “Go outside and play.”

When kids complain they are bored, it’s easy to be feel pressurised to let them watch tv or play on the iPad; or perhaps you feel guilty that you should be entertaining them. If your children are moping around the house,“Go outside and play” is probably the best thing you could say.

Here are four important reasons why outdoor play is one of the healthiest developmental activities your child can enjoy this summer.

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4 Reasons to Tell Your Children to “Go Outside and Play”

P – Physical Development

L – Language

A – Adventure

Y – your child is You-nique!

Let’s take a look at each of these:

#1. Physical Development

outdoor games for kids

It’s obvious that physical activity helps to build strong, healthy bodies. But play is so much more.

Watch your child playing outside. Notice all the different physical activities involved – pouring, pausing, stretching, leaning, picking up, lifting, putting down. Your child is developing myriad skills, including fine-motor coordination, their ability to cross the midline, balance, and eye-hand coordination. These skills impact how well children cope with the formal learning situation, so play is never a “waste of time”.

Young children learn best from experience, by using their senses actively rather than passively sitting in front of a screen. “Go outside and play” means they are learning from a whole-body participation experience.

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#2. Language Development

Language happens naturally when children play. As they chat they build their vocabulary, their articulation and language skills and their understanding of concepts. Imagine the conversation as children work together to build a fort.

“We need a long stick to hold up the roof.”

“That one’s too crooked.”

“This one’s better. Now we need some rope to tie it.”

Even a few sentences like this give a glimpse of the language that develops as children communicate with each other in play. Whether a child is speaking aloud or not, language develops in play because the new situations children create demand them to problem-solve and to articulate their needs and their experience.

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#3. Adventure

child outside (1)

Adventure happens when children play. They explore the environment. Different textures and tactile experiences – rough wood, warm, round stones, sand trickling between fingers, water splashing and sloshing and wetting your clothes, the squish of mud between your toes, swaying in treetops.

Children explore and absorb:

  • All sorts of sounds – hammering, puffing, shouting, whooping, clacking, buzzing bees, bird call, wind swishing, leaves rustling …
  • Smells – the scent of leaves and of wood, the smells of damp grass, of fresh bread in your picnic lunch.
  • Your child’s imagination opens up new worlds of discovery. Play is the awesome world where, no matter who you are, you can be a fireman or a princess, space-explorer, a dragon-slayer or befriender, or whatever else you choose. Imaginative play is where we dream dreams of all we can be and develop the skills of considering alternatives and making choices.

Through play and imagination children develop the creativity and problem-solving skills needed to deal with the challenges of life. No-one understood this better than Einstein, one of the greatest brains of all humankind.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. – Albert Einstein

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#4. You-nique!

To each child we can say, “You are a unique YOU!”

Through play, the child explores their self identity  – “Who am I?” “Who am I not?” They try out different roles. They interact with each other in different ways in the world of pretend.

You – unique person – how you play, where you play, what you play, who you choose to be, naturally unfolds.

They learn to focus; they develop patience, persistence and resilience. They learn to assess potential dangers and build self-reliance. They discover their You-niqueness!

To children, play is the natural way of being.

True play naturally evolves and develops the child’s:

Physical self,

Language and communication,

Adventure and imagination

and most importantly that

You-niqueness that makes each child the special “one and only” that you love.

Play is the work of childhood and probably the activity that most parents vastly under-rate. Without play our children wouldn’t grow to their full potential. So now you have four good reasons not to feel guilty when you tell your kids to go outside and PLAY. All you need is to provide the space and the props for children to play creatively.

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stop yelling book

My new parenting book “Stop Yelling – 9 Steps to Calmer Happier Parenting” is now available on Amazon and I’m delighted to report that it gets 5 star reviews. If you want to know how to respond when there’s sibling conflict or other family hiccups over the summer, then this will help.

Don't Feel Guilty When You Tell your Kids to Go outside and play

Like this? Share it with your network!

Like this? Share it with your network!

Published On: June 26th, 2020 / Categories: For Parents / Last Updated: July 19th, 2021 / Tags: /

About the Author: Val Mullally

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Val Mullally focuses on activating your inner wisdom in work, parenthood and life. She is an accredited Parenting Coach, Professional Reflective Practice Facilitator and founder of Koemba Parenting. She offers Parenting courses (both face-to-face and online), and is available as a workshop facilitator and a keynote speaker. Val is author of: 'BEHAVE - What to Do When Your Child Won’t’, ‘Stop Yelling – 9 Steps to Calmer, Happier Parenting’ ‘Baby and Toddler on Board – Mindful Parenting When a New Baby Joins the Family’ and ‘Ancient Wisdom for Business Success – How to Lead with Courage, Clarity and Confidence’ She is currently co-authoring ‘In Defence of the Naughty Child - Understanding Sensory Sensitivity’ and will be speaking on this topic at TEDx Wexford on 11 August 2022. Val spent many years in Southern Africa, where she worked as a teacher, principal and trainer in Education. She and her husband now live in the place her heart calls home, in their traditional Irish cottage in North County Cork, Ireland.

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