My oldest is now 10 and has been playing out since he was 8. My youngest has just turned 8 and has been to play out with her brother a couple of times (it would have been more if it wasn’t for the restrictions of 2020!). It’s part of our free range parenting approach and so was always my intention. I played out regularly as a child and it provided some of the best memories of my childhood. It can be hard these days to give children the freedom to play unsupervised but I really do think it’s important we try and give our children some freedom. These are what I consider the benefits of playing out.
The Health Benefits of Playing Out – Exercise
We all know that there is a problem with childhood obesity in the UK and I believe that one of the benefits of playing out is that children will move more and eat less. If you’re outside with your friends, you’ll likely be running around, engaged in play. If you’re at home you’re more likely to be bored and engaging in all kids’ favourite pastime, demanding snacks every ten minutes!
Time Away From Screens
My kids love their devices and I don’t think there is anything wrong with gaming but if it were up to my kids, I suspect they would do it in every free moment. We limit computer games to Friday nights and the weekend. This means that they need to entertain themselves in other ways after school and playing outdoor games is perfect for that.
Making Different Friends
Where we live, there is a grass area where lots of the children play. Most of them attend the same school as my children but aren’t in the same class or even year group. Playing out allows them to make friends from across the school who they wouldn’t normally interact with. This can be a great insurance policy for when they inevitably fall out with their usual friends. Playing with older and younger children can also help them develop a broader set of social skills.
When you play out, you don’t have a whole houseful of toys at your disposal. This means you need to come up with your own fun and that can be great for creative thinking and problem solving. Whether it’s acting out scenes in pretend play or using sticks and stones as goals in football, playing outside helps children find solutions to their problems in creative ways.
When children playing out unsupervised, there are no parents or midday assistants to help them navigate their disagreements. While it may seem scary to send your child into this situation, it’s excellent preparation for the real world. As long as they can come home if they are upset by something, negotiating disagreements and finding compromises will really help your child to develop.
Developing Self Confidence
For me this is one of the key benefits of playing out. Your child will get an initial confidence boost when you put your trust in them by letting them play out unsupervised. It’s likely they will want to rise to that trust and will follow your rules carefully. As their experience of playing out grows and they make new friends and learn new skills, their confidence will grow further.
The Best Benefit of Playing Out – Fun!
As well as all of those practical benefits, playing out is fun for children. They are social creatures and spending more time with their friends, outside of the watchful eyes of adults will give them a great deal of pleasure and isn’t that what we all really want for our children?
If you’re worried about letting your child play out, have a look at our rules for playing out safely and check the guidance from the NSPCC. You can also check out Playout.net, a great organisation who support playing out.
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