Do you despair every time your kids get grubby? Time for a re-think. Being outside and exploring nature is a vital part of your children’s development and getting filthy is all part of it. Here’s why… It keeps them naturally fit The benefits of the natural exercise your kids get from running around outside, playing games like hide and seek, ‘it’, or cops and robbers, are immense. Kids who are active have stronger bones and muscles and are less likely to get overweight. And best of all, they won’t think of it as ‘exercise’ - it’s just fun! They feel braver Children learn to be more confident when they explore their surroundings in an unrestrained way. Learning new games, riding bikes, swinging on a rope and running races will help them develop confidence in themselves and in their environment, especially if they know they won’t get into trouble for getting messy in the process. Urge them to play freely (but safely) so they get the chance to learn to assess risk and develop the skills to manage new situations, which will make them more confident in the long run. It lets them be creative Playing ‘let’s pretend’ games and building camps develops your child’s imagination in ways that computer games and technology cannot. Whether working as a team to build a fort in the woods, making an elaborate sand castle or creating a mud ‘hotel’ for mini-beasts, your child’s imagination will be stretched and stimulated so they see the world and its potential in a whole new way. They will also develop problem-solving and social skills and become more resourceful and inventive. It gives them a health boost Playing outside, means getting a much-needed dose of Vitamin D from the sun. This not only boosts energy and moods and provides calcium for stronger bones, but it also enhances your child’s overall health. And getting good and grubby will build up their immune system, exposing them to dirt and bacteria in a natural way so they are less likely to develop autoimmune disorders and allergies. How to make outdoor play easy and fun (for kids and yourself) Play clothes should be comfortable and sturdy. Wellies or hiking boots should survive the slipperiest of conditions. Keep a box or big sturdy bag by the back door for muddy and dirty clothes to be dumped in as soon as they get home - taking boots off at the same time. This avoids the inevitable tramping of dirt through the house. Make sure you’re well stocked with Ariel so you can empty the bag straight into the washing machine and get those clothes clean, fresh and ready for the next outing. If your child is introverted or prefers to be home glued to their iPad, you may need to give the outdoor play a focus to tempt them out of the house. Try going foraging together, collecting shells or driftwood on the beach, or do a nature trail to spot specific plants and animals. Pitch a tent or let them build a den in the back garden so they’ve got somewhere to hang out and play with their friends. If you don’t have a garden head down to the nearest woods and play hide and seek or make a den there. www.thehitavada.com .