The Power of Outdoor Play

04/10/2015 04:02 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2015
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In this age of early integration of technology, it is important to understand the power of outdoor play in children's lives.

As a social animal, participating in outdoor play can help socialize and culturalize your preschooler through peer-group socialization. Games teach your preschooler how to know the rules and follow the rules. He learns about instructions, teamwork, camaraderie, collaboration, competition and motivation as he pushes past his effort to win.

Outdoor play can help your preschooler develop his motor skills and strengthen his muscles and bones. Not only does your preschooler get a chance to lower his stress and anxiety through physical activities outside, but he also has the opportunity to connect to his natural self, that part of himself that responds to nature.

Cognitively, your preschooler can learn a great deal from spending time outdoors and trying things, rather than simply hearing about them. In fact, outdoor play is a step toward your preschooler's independence. Through games, both collaborative and competitive, your preschooler can develop confidence, competence and self-sufficiency. This all transfers to your preschooler's sense of self and intrinsic motivation.

Your preschooler is socialized by his peers when playing with others and is taught to share, collaborate and be tolerant.

Furthermore, your preschooler learns to think critically as he strategizes and plans how to compete and win not only for himself, but also as part of a team. In a sense, outdoor activities and sports can teach your preschooler how to test himself against his environment. Your preschooler can experience cognitive and language strides simply through outdoor games that have rhyming, complicated language, grammar and syntax. When exposed to other children, friendships and social interactions, your preschooler develops phonology, complicated language and the comprehension necessary for peer-group interaction.

To make the most of outdoor playtime, all outdoor activities should be age-appropriate and parentally supervised. Here are some ideas for games that can teach your preschooler valuable skills:

• Hide-and-seek, in which your child can learn counting

• Spy games such as Clue

• Story games: telling a story and having each child add to it

• Memory games, such as Telephone

• Rhyming games, such as childhood rhymes recited during jump roping

• Red Light, Green Light

• Ball games of all kinds, including little league baseball

• Red Rover

• Statue

Activities that involve nature -- such as riding a bike with training wheels, collecting leaves, shells and rocks and building forts and castles -- all of these activities require cognitive skill, planning and execution, which can help your preschooler mature and learn about healthy social interactions and relationships.

When your preschooler is physically active outdoors, he has the opportunity to reduce his stress and anxiety. In fact, you are teaching your preschooler to cope and manage his own stress. Therefore, outdoor games can lead to better immunities and feelings of well-being, as well as a healthier, happier preschooler, both mentally and physically. And, outdoor play can give you the opportunity to teach your preschooler about safety and danger, including stranger-danger.