As a nanny or a parent, you will want to engage the children in your care in activities that will allow them to have lots of fun and help them to develop. Outdoor play is perfect for this as it offers a whole variety of amazing benefits.

This guide to outdoor play looks at the kinds of things children can do outside to develop physically, mentally, socially and whether you are a mother’s help, nanny or parent, we hope this is useful.

Why is outdoor play important?

These days it is more common to see children indoors using gadgets than it is to see them outside, but outdoor play is very important in a child’s development, so it is vital that they are encouraged to head out and run, walk, jump and skip until they are worn out and happy.

Playing outside gives children the chance to explore new environments, learn about the world around them, and provides the opportunity to exercise and get a bit of fresh air. These aspects are important as they will benefit the health and fitness of the children and help to strengthen their immune systems too.

Always dress appropriately

When heading outside with children it is important that they are dressed appropriately for both the weather and the activities that they will be taking part in. Layers are always a great idea as they can be removed if the child becomes hot while running around, and we suggest always taking a light raincoat too!

Wellies are ideal for if it has been raining, or looks like it might while you are out, otherwise trainers should be perfect for running around in – just be aware that they could get muddy so avoid letting them out in their best shoes.

If you are greeted by clear blue skies don’t forget sunhats and sun cream, plus plenty of drinks and snacks if you are planning on being outside for a long period of time.

Play fun games

Playing games is a fantastic way to build up a child’s social skills as you can invite other people to join in or encourage them to play nicely with their siblings. Hide & seek is a great option if you are out exploring woodland or are in a park with equipment to hide behind, or catch is a good game to play if you are in an open space like a field or garden.

Playing games is also a lovely way to encourage creativity and allowing the children in your care to use their imaginations. This could include incorporating objects around them into their play, or challenging themselves to something new, like going down a big slide for example.

You may also like to take bikes, scooters or skates along with their safety helmets with you if the children own these toys as this will add another dimension to their play and enable them to work on the skills required to use this type of equipment and feel confident in doing so.

Give them freedom

Outdoor play offers children the chance to run free and burn off some of the excess energy that they so often have, so give them the freedom to charge off and do their own thing, however keeping the children in your sight always, which is crucial. This will give them independence and help them to understand what it means to be self-reliant.

Freedom can come with worries about security, so we suggest making sure that you know the area where you are going and have assessed any risks before letting the children explore. We would particularly encourage this if you are a junior nanny or mother’s help and may have less experience in spending time with children in the great outdoors.

This way you can warn them if there are any areas that they need to avoid, and you can set boundaries if necessary. Once you have been to the same place a few times you will all feel more confident about them exploring, but don’t let that put you off finding great new outside spaces to discover too.