May 1st is National Play Outside Day! You may not know this but National Play Outside Day is actually a monthly event that occurs on the first Saturday of every month. Since these things can easily slip our minds though, we’re putting the spotlight on it this month.
You can use these helpful ideas to encourage your kids to get active and play outside so that they (and you) can reap the many benefits of outside play!
On that note, let’s begin with a quick refresher on the benefits of outside play so that you’ll be armed with intelligent, science-backed answers when the kids whine “Why do we have to play outside?”
Benefits of Outside Play
Do you remember being told to “Go and play outside!” as a kid? It wasn’t just because your parents wanted a break (that’s just an added bonus). Here are some of the main reasons, according to parentingscience.com, why it’s good for healthy growth and development.
- Greater exposure to natural light, which is good for the body and brain.
- Increased exercise and range of physical activities (jumping, skipping, running etc).
- Improved moods, better concentration and decreased stress levels.
- Better natural sleeping patterns.
- Greater socialization with other children and animals.
- More opportunities to face and conquer fears and create an affinity with nature.
- Greater opportunities for hands-on learning about the outside world, physical forces and scientific concepts.
- Reduced risk of nearsightedness.
8 Ways to Inspire Outside Play in the Shire
Take the kids to a local skatepark
There are a handful of skateparks in the Sutherland Shire at Menai, Greenhills, Sutherland, Bundeena and smaller skateparks at Kurnell and Engadine. You can find details on all the skateparks in the Sutherland Shire on the Council website.
Visit a new playground
There are so many playgrounds in the Shire that your kids are likely to outgrow them before you’ve seen them all. You can browse our playground reviews or read The Best Playgrounds in The Shire if you’re not sure where to start. If you feel like you’ve done this loads of times and are looking for ways to make it interesting, pack a picnic, take some toys that can join the picnic and go down the slides/on the swings and maybe a frisbee, footy or bocce set that will change the way your kids play because it’s about using the space, not just the equipment.
Explore the bush
Walking through the bush is the easiest way to put the stresses of suburban life out of your mind and has been proven to have huge health benefits for adults and children alike. Little kids will be able to manage a short walk through The Glen Reserve in Bonnet Bay, behind Cassandra Reserve in Heathcote, or along the bush that stretches around Gymea Bay Baths. Older kids can accompany you through Prince Edward Park, or Temptation Creek Trail. If you’re a bit worried about getting lost, you can always join The Family Bushwalking Club.
Go for a walk
Not all walks need to be through the bush to be good for you, and for those of you still pushing a pram around, bushwalking may feel very far off. There are lots of low-impact and accessible walks through the Shire too though. We love the Woronora Bridge Walk and Joseph Banks Native Plants Reserve Kareela. You can find more walking tracks on the Sutherland Shire Council website.
Hang at the beach
It’s getting cooler now but we couldn’t talk about places to visit outside in the Sutherland Shire and not mention some of the Shire’s beautiful beaches! Besides, even if it’s too cool to swim, the sunny autumn days can be a great time to enjoy the beaches (and their stunning views) when they’re not so crowded. Take a picnic, some buckets, spades and sand tools to get kids creating, play hopscotch in the sand, fly a kite and explore the rock pools for crabs, sea snails and shells.
Ride around a bike track
Whether you’re a BMX fan or a mountain bike rider, there are local spots you can take your bike out for a spin. Our article on The Best Playgrounds in The Shire has a section that will help you find playgrounds with bike tracks for very young children. Once kids are confident on their bikes, you might like to check out the Waratah Park Cycling Track and Waratah Park Mountain Bike Short Track at the back of Sutherland, the Loftus Loop Trail, Como BMX Track or Barden Ridge Pump Track. The popular Mill Creek Mountain Bike Trail at Lucas Heights also offers great mountain bike tracks but there is construction in progress at the moment.
Taking kids fishing is a great way to bond with them while also teaching them patience! Suitable fishing spots for kids in the Sutherland Shire include Swallow Rock Reserve at Grays Point, Wally’s Wharf at Dolans Bay, Gunnamatta Park at Cronulla, Albert Delardes Memorial Reserve at Illawong, Silver Beach at Kurnell and Gymea Bay Baths. Don’t forget to have a rock skimming contest while you’re there!
Show animals some love
Nothing makes a young child’s face light up like getting close to furry or feathered friends. Pets, particularly dogs, can give kids great reasons to spend more time outside. If you have an outside pet, encourage your child to shower it with affection by playing with it. Kids should be involved in walking your family dog as often as possible. If you don’t have a dog, you could offer to walk a neighbour’s dog or could even make some extra money by listing yourself as a pet sitter or dog-walker on a website like Mad Paws or Paw Shake and reap the benefits that way.
You can also feed the birds at Camellia Gardens, Audley or next to Prince Edward Park (if you’re there in the morning when the birds jump out for a feed). Here are some feed suggestions that are more suitable than stale bread.
Enjoy the parks
We wrote not too long ago about the best parks and gardens in the Shire. There are some really pretty places in the Shire where you can encourage your child to play imaginatively while you both enjoy the benefits of green space, failing that, organising a scavenger hunt or letting your kids use an app on your phone to identify different plants and flowers they spot as they play might keep their interest up too.
Outside Play at home
Looking for nature play ideas you can use at home? You’ll find STACKS of nature play ideas here sorted by age and interest.
Share with us
There’s nothing our community of mums loves more than seeing other local mums and what they get up to with their kids, so please tag us in your Facebook or Instagram posts or stories so we can share them with other mums like you who may be looking for inspiration!