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Why should kids play outside?

Why should kids play outside?

Why should kids play outside?

Outdoor play is a crucial component of a child’s overall development, offering a myriad of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. In an age where screens and indoor activities dominate much of children’s free time, encouraging outdoor play is more important than ever. Activities such as running, jumping, and imaginative play not only improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and coordination but also foster creativity and social skills. The exposure to fresh air and natural light boosts mood and mental well-being, reducing stress and anxiety levels in children.

Engaging in outdoor activities helps children develop a deeper appreciation for nature and encourages environmentally friendly habits from a young age. Parents play a key role in facilitating outdoor play by providing safe, stimulating environments and joining in the fun. Whether it’s a trip to the local park, a hike in the woods, or simply playing in the backyard, outdoor play is a valuable and enjoyable way for children to grow and thrive.

Why should kids play outside?

Why should kids play outside, and what are the benefits of outdoor play for kids? Firstly, getting outside offers more than just a fun break for children; it’s also beneficial for their physical and mental health development. They will be more:

Physically Healthy:

  • Advanced motor skills and muscle strength: Playing outside helps children develop motor skills, agility, balance, and coordination more effectively than those who spend more time indoors. When kids play outdoors, their muscles, bones, and physical endurance are more thoroughly trained and challenged, thereby strengthening both their bodies and their sense of self-confidence.
  • Low Body Mass Index: Children who play outside are less likely to become obese. This is because they are not spending long hours in front of a television or smartphone; instead, they are energetic and burning off calories.
  • Better General Health: As you know, obese children are more likely to experience health issues such as asthma, sleep apnea, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Allowing your child to spend time outdoors can lead to an improvement in their mood and a boost to their immune system. Additionally, outdoor play helps children get an adequate amount of vitamin D, which is essential for their health. While vitamin D is present in certain foods, children typically require more than they can obtain from their diet alone.
why should kids play outside

why should kids play outside

Mentally Healthy:

Stress and depression are lower for people who spend time in nature, and children also experience increased focus and reduced symptoms of Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Easier communication with others: Children who spend more time outdoors typically feel more comfortable opening up and sharing their feelings with adults and friends.
  • Greater self-awareness: Children who play outdoors are more likely to develop observational and reasoning skills. Additionally, outdoor play allows them to see the world from different perspectives.
  • More engaged in learning: Helps in promotes curiosity, creativity and critical thinking and focus. 
  • More positive behavior and mood: Children who spend more time outdoors exhibit fewer anger and aggression issues.
  • Learning self-reflection: During outdoor play, children have the opportunity to take risks and try new things, which helps them develop the ability to analyze and control their emotions.
  • Lowered stress and fatigue: Spending time in nature has been proven to reduce stress levels and promote mental relaxation, which helps restore our concentration and ability to focus.
why should kids play outside

why should kids play outside

Better Intellectual Development

  • Help in brain development: During unstructured outdoor play, children explore their surroundings and become more independent,fostering the development of decision-making and organizational skills. Additionally, through both individual and cooperative play, children learn to problem-solve, create fictional worlds, and turn ideas into realities.
  • Improvement in interpersonal skills: Children often encounter other kids and learn to build friendships at the park or playground, meeting peers from diverse backgrounds. Outdoor spaces often afford children the opportunity to practice forming relationships independently, without parental assistance.
  • Spark interest in new topics: Spending more time outdoors exposes children to new sights, sounds, and smells. These experiences trigger their curiosity, leading them to ask questions such as ‘What kind of tree is that?’ or ‘What sound does a cat make?’
why should kids play outside

why should kids play outside

Younger kids vs older kids

Children play differently at various life stages. Between birth and 2 years old, they have limited mobility and tend to explore and play alone, which helps develop their senses. Around age 2, they may observe older children but still prefer independent play.

During the preschool phase, typically between ages 3 and 4, children begin to show signs of minimal interaction. Once they enter school, they tend to engage in more structured games and organized activities together, such as tag.

5 Ways on how to encourage your child to play outside?

  1. Start out small
    Children may find large public spaces with many strangers intimidating if they’re not used to playing outside. Parents can help by watching over them in case they need assistance. It’s helpful to gradually expose your child to nature by starting with activities like playing in your backyard or taking walks around the neighborhood.
  2. Make it fun
    To make outdoor play enjoyable for your child, parents should try to understand their child’s interests and favorite activities. For instance, if you notice your child loves watching football games or playing football video games, you can initiate a real-life game with them. Creating fun outdoor experiences encourages children to put aside their technology and fully enjoy their time in nature.
  3. Provide options
    Boredom encourages children to explore their environment more. If your child complains of boredom, offer them some options. For example:

    • Bring out outdoor toys.
    • Try unfamiliar playground equipment.
    • Play board games.
    • Engage in educational games outside.
  4. Bring family and friends
    Playing outdoors with a familiar companion can make the experience more enjoyable. Engaging in outdoor play with children can enhance various skills, including:

    • Motor skills
    • Emotion regulation
    • Group leadership skills
    • Creativity
    • Cognitive flexibility
  5. Go outside regularly
    Incorporate outdoor time into your family’s routine as a regular activity. Schedule dedicated time to go outdoors, such as after school or every weekend.

Remember to dress appropriately for the weather. Additionally, it’s recommended to wash hands or use hand sanitizer during and after every outdoor play session. As Nicolette Sowder wisely stated, ‘Encouraging a child to go outside in all weather builds resilience, but more importantly, it saves them from spending their life merely tolerating the ‘bad’ days in favor of a handful of ‘good’ ones – a life of endless expectations and conditions where happiness hinges on sunshine.’



Playing Outside: Why It’s Important for Kids. (n.d.).

miraclerecreation. (2021, May 30). 6 Benefits of Outdoor Play For Children & Their Development. Miracle Recreation.