Of late, we have found ourselves in the office, reminiscing about the days when we woke up, ate breakfast and then went out to play. Until dusk or dinner time. And then, back out we would go. Until the streetlights came on. Sometimes, we wouldn’t even head home because we would be with friends and have dinner at their houses, and then have an impromptu sleepover. A phone call would suffice and permission was granted.

What did we do all day? Some days we would play at the park, while others would be spent at the pool. Often we would ride our bikes around town and meet up with others in the neighbourhood or we would find classmates. We used our imagination a lot. We climbed trees. We jumped off of things that we probably should not have, occasionally spraining or breaking something. We built forts. We created small towns and took over the world. We petted random dogs and fed outdoor cats.

We walked to school, often in packs, sometimes skipping rope or hopping over the lemon twist…

And here we are today. A few scars, successful by many measures, still enjoying friends, unstructured play, time outdoors, and overall good health.

The benefits of all of the above are well documented. It is important for children to understand and appreciate that learning happens in the classroom, but also outside of those four walls. Lessons experienced outdoors often have the greatest impact and thus make for the most memorable moments. They also promote independence, given that children are left on their own to problem solve. Children tap into their creativity in unstructured environments – how many uses did you find in a cardboard box when you were a child (and by the way, the toy that was in the box gathered dust while the box took on epic proportions). By creating their own games, children are then using their imagination rather than lock step following pre-established rules. If they do create their own rules, then they are also learning how to negotiate, listen, take turns, be a part of a team and lead.

Being outdoors generally means being more active, which feeds not only the mind, but the body and spirit. We also gather more vitamins outside. The fresh air found outdoors can also calm children down, help rid them of all sorts of energy and then allow them to be more focussed on other tasks. Once used to the outdoors, children’s social skills actually develop more freely. Wide open spaces can be far more welcoming than confined indoor spaces, helping children develop friendships and overcome shyness. (But let’s not knock what a space, say under a table, can do for creativity!) How easy was it for you as a child to make new friends on a regular basis when spending most of the day outside? Even as an extremely shy child, I had friends in school and around the neighborhood.

All that said, unstructured outdoor play helps children develop cognitively, emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually without even trying to.

So on this first long weekend of the 2019-2020 school year, allow yourself, and your loved ones, some time for unstructured outdoor play. And be thankful that you have this time and space to enjoy one another.


Thank you Jennifer for such a nice article! It took me right back to my childhood...

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.