Let's Go Outside

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Let's Go Outside

Beyond fresh air and exercise, outdoor play provides your little one with opportunities for social and emotional growth.

Through physical play outdoors, your child develops confidence in herself as she sees her physical skills grow. This self-confidence can translate into social confidence: Children who feel good about their physical abilities tend to view themselves more positively in general.

baby wants to playYour baby probably invites you to play by making sounds, looking intently at you and smiling, or by crawling over to you, dragging a toy along in his hand. When you cue into his signals, you help him begin to build confidence that he can make things happen! This opens the door for further development of social skills.

Toddlers tend to play beside each other—sometimes with the same toys—but not necessarily with each other. They are playing "alone together." Make sure there are multiple items of the same kind of toy—two shovels, two little cars—so your child can play and not fight over an item. Your child will begin to see others as part of the play potential and not as competitors. Children can relax and enjoy play and not have to be on guard to protect their playthings from others.

Great Outdoor Games for Babies and Toddlers

boy and duckTry these on your next outing:

  • Talk to the animals. Make a point of going somewhere outside where your baby will see animals (the park, a zoo, and so on). Hold your infant so she feels secure, but make sure she has visual contact with the animal (after you're assured the animal is "baby friendly"!). Ask: "What does the doggie say?" If your little one does not yet make the sound, make it for her. Most likely, the animal will soon respond. This dialogue will reinforce your baby's idea of social "conversation."

  • Ribbon dance. Tie wrapping ribbon (use a variety of colors) around plastic bangle bracelets or "six-pack" holders. Put on music and dance with your child while you both move your arms to wave the ribbons. This game will help your child understand social expression.

Read about outdoor play for preschoolers

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About the Author

Written by Dr. Eric Strickland, Ph.D.
Scholastic's Parent & Child Magazine

Dr. Eric Strickland has been a Head Start teacher and director, head teacher at the Auburn University at Montgomery (Alabama) Child Development Center, and associate professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is now the founder and president of Grounds for Play, a design/build firm that specializes in outdoor play spaces.