On 3rd of August, 2022 it is National Playday in the UK.
Isn’t playing what children do every day? You may well ask. It certainly should be, but, while some children get the opportunity to play daily, others are less fortunate.
Long journeys to and from school, homework, lack of a suitable play area or someone to supervise kids if they want to go outdoors all contribute, even the weather takes its toll.
Other children have simply lost the habit of playing, especially playing outdoors, and resort to technology or TV for entertainment.
Why is play and especially playing outdoors important?
Well let’s start with simply getting outside. Fresh air and exercise are essential for growing bodies and minds, and outdoor play is a great way to get both.
Vitamin D from sunlight exposure is important for bone and muscle health. It’s important not to expose kids to too much sunshine but recent years have seen an increase in the number of cases of rickets in the UK.  Causes are frequently either poor diet or lack of sufficient sunshine, so letting them get a few minutes of sun on their skin (before lashing on the sunscreen) is important.
Other health benefits include helping promote a healthy body weight by encouraging physical activity. It has been shown to reduce the risk of developing myopia (nearsightedness).
Gross motor skills such as running, climbing, and throwing are developed through outdoor play. Studies have shown that these skills are not as well developed in children who do not regularly participate in physical activity. 
Fine motor skills such as dexterity and hand-eye coordination can also be developed through outdoor play. 
Why is this essential? The development of fine motor skills helps children to manipulate objects, control pens and write, get dressed and, of course, feed themselves.
This is why young children need many opportunities to develop fine motor skills alongside gross motor skills. They grow in confidence and learn to explore the world around them.
Adventuring and Exploring
Kids love an adventure! Playing outside can help them explore and develop a sense of adventure.
With so much of our lives governed by ‘Health and Safety’ rules, it’s important for children to be able to take risks in safe environments. Both structured and unstructured play can encourage this.
Outdoor play provides fantastic opportunities for imaginative, unstructured play and so is critical for cognitive development in young children. Among the many cognitive benefits to outdoor play are improved attention span, memory, and creativity.
Development of good social skills is helped by the social interaction and cooperative play that occurs when children organise and create their own games. Making friends, learning to share and negotiate, solving conflicts amongst themselves, all essential development skills for young children. 
Role of Nature
Being in nature can help reduce stress and promote relaxation, both of which are important for young children.
Asense of responsibility and stewardship for the natural world can be developed through outdoor play. These kids are more likely to develop a lifelong love of nature and the outdoors.
Connecting with nature becomes more challenging as we become more urbanised and time poor. Providing an opportunity for children to experience plants, animals and insects will help to deepen the connection. Local parks, woods, the beach or even the backyard are all available for exploration by the intrepid young explorer.
More and more, children are spending increasing amounts of time on computers, pads and phones. (Some of the figures are staggering). 
This has been shown to have some serious health effects, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Playing games and using social networks online can become addictive creating problematic use of screens.
Getting them out in the fresh air gives time to disconnect from technology and, instead, reconnect with friends and nature.
All of the Emotions!
And finally being outdoors and playing helps increase happiness, decrease stress and improve self-esteem.
So Playday is important in helping to encourage children to participate in community activities outdoors. If you’re in the UK, why not pop over to the PlayDay website , see what’s happening in your area and how you can get the kiddies involved
And most importantly – have FUN!
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