Children can have fun racing across the Step-A-Stones; ideal for developing confidence, physical skills, co-ordination and balance.

Does your child prefer to stay indoors to watch television, play games, read or draw than go outside to play? Do you worry your child doesn’t spend enough time playing outdoors?

As a parent do you sometimes admit to relying on your child’s school or early learning centre to ensure they get adequate outdoor play time, and spend very little time playing outdoors with your child yourself?

Playing outside is what makes being a child so much fun. When children are outside they engage all of their senses, are active and use their imaginations.

It is important that children be encouraged to play outdoors, particularly in the spring and during the school holidays, to not only help them stay active and healthy, but to socialise with family and friends and create those treasured childhood memories; kicking a ball, riding a bike, playing in cubby houses or sand pits and going on picnics that we look back on so fondly.

Children’s play today has changed from our own childhoods. Not only has the advent of technology driven children to screens, they are now more likely to participate in organized, structured sports and activities rather than simply go outside to play. Societal change has also resulted in larger homes with smaller yards and greater parental concern about crime, safety, and injury, inhibiting children from participating in more unstructured, unsupervised outdoor play experiences.

There are many factors that have lessened children’s outdoor play experiences. As parents, we need to support our child’s adventurous spirit, nurture imagination and provide safe and fun experiences where children can challenge themselves physically to test and extend their abilities and skill level, which increases their self-esteem and resilience.

Outdoor space offers children richer and more stimulating play experiences to learn and develop on a larger, more active scale than possible indoors. It is simpler to make a mess outside, easier to throw a ball outdoors, less disturbing to make noise and less difficult to manoeuvre large play equipment.

Forget miniature toys and games when it comes to outdoor play. According to the Toy Industry Association, children want the real deal. Large-sized, life-like toys pack “big” play value to thrill, engage and entice children outside, TIA state.

“Larger-than-life playthings are so much fun for kids because they are truly life-like – often the same size or bigger than them,” TIA Trend Expert Adrienne Appell said.

Children can construct and play with life-sized toys in just about every category from oversized plush and action figures, to building sets, dollhouses, big games, bikes and go karts, TIA suggest.

Life-sized toys encourage creativity, construction and active play. Life-sized toys enable children to engage in real world, active play. These experiences create opportunities for children to develop an interest in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. They also support and develop language, sensory, motor, and essential social skills such as sharing, negotiation and cooperation.

Studies have shown that children who play outside have greater confidence and a higher self-esteem, perform better in school and reduce their chances of developing lifestyle diseases later in life.