Small Fry Outdoors

Ichildren in hammockn an effort to find balance in an increasingly hectic world we have forgotten that spending time outside is a vital part of the overall mix. To achieve optimum emotional, physical and spiritual health for our children we need to turf them outside to play and learn in an unstructured way. Why?

Outdoors does SIX critical things for our children:

  1. It combats obesity – even just one or two hours a week will help.
  2. It’s a great destresser. Little children can get just as stressed as us. Down time is as important to them as it is to us. Periods of quiet reflection outdoors recharges little bodies and minds making them more capable and focussed during times of formal learning, be it at home pre-school or primary school. (examples: hidey holes and imaginary homes, watching ants, prisms and shadow puppets. And sometimes we need to get them out of our hair! Mother Nature can be a good circuit breaker when tempers get frayed. (Example: give them an active project when this is case - kicking a ball, “painting” the fence with water or chalk, tip or hide n’ seek).
  3. Develops fine and gross motor skills – (jumping, climbing, skipping, picking flowers etc) and provides lessons on the senses and various concepts such as literacy and numeracy (leaf counting, life cycle).
  4. Helps imagination and creativity – (fairies and goblins, magic potions). Imaginative play is essential for brain development and has been linked to improving IQ. Spending time outdoors grows smarter children.
  5. Provides unstructured play which encourages resilience, independence and self-confidence – it lessens the likelihood of learned helplessness. That is, if we do everything for our children and over-structure their play it can result in an over-reliance on others to provide their entertainment and this diminishes their capacity to independently learn. The child who suffers from learned helplessness will always rely on others, or turn to others, for solutions which can result in poor social skills and low self-esteem. They will not become future leaders nor will they manage the school yard as effectively as they could. They could become more prone to bullying or become bullies themselves.
  6. Gives them an early understanding of the environment and their place within it. This helps with understanding complex issues such as climate change and teaches them about food, medicinal and shelter sources. This is critical given they are the future custodians of our planet. (examples: leaf hunting, storm watch, water catchers).

Five top tips for getting children outside:

  1. Entrance them. Help them find fairies and trolls everywhere. Use natural resources in imaginative play. Agapanthus becomes sword, cicadas become brooches, rainbow chasing. By making the outdoor experience a magical & fun one for little children we can lead them to developing their own sustained interest in the practical side of being outdoors.
  2. Give them a regular outdoor project. A veggie patch is a great start. Or a nature journal, rain gauge, mushroom kit.
  3. Involve them early in your outdoor chores. Eg weeding, hanging out the washing, washing the dog, pruning, watering the garden. Make it fun!
  4. Take their indoor activities outside – lego, handheld computer games, books, colouring in.
  5. Encourage them to be as wild as they want. Let them learn that outside is a place where they can dance, sing and yell their little lungs out.

Small Fry Outdoors is available at all good bookstores or visit  All of the activities contained within the book are free or low cost.