With Spring in the air, and the weather warming up it’s a great opportunity to look at the importance of outdoor play for children, especially those with special needs. Its easy to form the perception, it’s challenging for children to play and explore outside, its not safe, its overwhelming, and that I have to be right by their side every moment.
Outdoor play, is a major part of childhood playing on the grass, getting dirty in a sand pit, being a princess in a castle, or a pirate in a fort. Playing outdoor stimulates the imagination, and generates happiness for all ages. Even for adults its when out in the open air that our inner child is revealed. Who doesn’t love a go on the swing, or a go at the old backyard cricket? Everyone can be involved in outdoor play in a healthy and inclusive way.
Turn therapy into fun outdoor play.
Whatever the ability of your child there are opportunities to bring therapy into outdoor play, making therapy so much more fun. This could include practicing walking from the wheelchair to the swing, or going up the steps to the slide. Strengthen their arms with a race in their chair. Or even lying in the sun on grass doing stretches.
When inside watching TV, your child is only relying on their visual senses. When outside all senses get going, developing both gross and fine motor skills, helping with mobility and coordination. The smell of the freshly cut grass and the flowers, the sound of the birds, the feeling of a smooth pebble, or sand, the taste of the dirt while making mud pies…etc. the list goes on. The outside world allows all 5 senses to come into play.
Social, Mental health, & health
Outside play encourages children to bond with other children, and those with special needs may not always find social skills easy. Its important to encourage constructive outdoor activities with other children, where they can learn how to communicate, share, and problem solve all while having fun in a low stress environment. If your child is limited with mobility they can still play, they could be a guard at the castle, or the princess in the carriage. Kids have a great way of adapting situations to include friends.
Managing to do things other kids do such as slide down the slide for the first time is great for building self-esteem in children with special needs. It does depend on the ability of each child, what activities they may participate in. It may be that sitting in the sand pit with their sibling, allows your child to be a child enjoying the simple things all kids should enjoy. This which builds self-confidence and improves self-esteem.
The contact with nature can reduce stress and lessen symptoms of ADHD, and is good for those suffering with anxiety-related disorders. Introducing children to the outdoors can open a new world of exploration
No-one is excluded from the health benefits of being outside in the sun soaking up vitamin D. The outdoors improves mental and brain health, not only is it great for your child but its great for you as well. Simply breathing fresh air is beneficial, as it is more oxygen enriched then most indoor environments. This means your body will find it easier to function.
The physical activity the sensory explosion, and having the opportunity to tire the body out in a beneficial way means children who spend quality time will get much better night’s sleep. Time outdoors during the day is essential for working of the pineal gland which produces and regulates melatonin, an essential ingredient to regulate sleep patterns.