When I was a kid, playing outside was the norm. We would exit the house just after breakfast, and only return inside for snacks or toilet breaks. These days, there is so much competition for our children’s time, particularly from all things electronic, we have to get clever if we want to shift their focus to the great outdoors. Of course, there are always playparks to take them to, but with weather like we had last summer, why not turn your own garden into a playpark and guarantee they will get their share of fresh air?
The benefits of outdoor play are immense – on top of the obvious gains to overall fitness and co-ordination, children learn to socialise, take risks, and to invoke their imagination in an unstructured setting. You only have to listen to their laughter to know that it is a lot of fun, too. So the only thing to really consider is what kind of equipment should you go for?
Of course, you can go for the old classics like the swing set and see-saw, but outdoor play has come a long way in recent years, so why not get a bit more adventurous? Paddling pools have evolved from circular bits of plastic filled with tepid water into elaborate wet playscapes like the Intex Dinoland Play Centre. Sand pits have transformed from irregular holes in the ground into sand-filled pirate boats and multi-purpose play tables, like the TP Toys Picnic Table Sandpit.
Climbing frames are always a worthwhile investment, but do your homework to ensure you get the most for your money. Plum is an award-winning brand that has added mud-pie making facilities, herb gardens and wind chimes to the traditional features like slides and climbing ladders. They have even redefined the Wendy house with their substantial TeePee Hideaway, crafted from sustainably sourced wood.
If your own inner child still craves a bit of outdoor fun, you may want to investigate the range of giant board games that are available for the garden. From Connect 4 to Jenga to chess, these immersive challenges provide hours of entertainment for all ages, and offer you a rare opportunity to actually beat your children at something.
Technology has its place, for sure, but if we want our children to start as we wish them to go on, we need to introduce them to the joys and benefits of the great outdoors as soon as we can. An investment in outdoor play equipment is one that will pay back for years to come.