What Happens to Your Children When They Play Outside?

It’s summer! It’s beautiful! Kids should be outside enjoying the warm weather and fresh air. If you feel that your kids are spending too much time inside, you may be right!

There has been a significant decline in the time children are spending outside. The list of reasons for this is long and varied and includes things such as increased screen time, loss of natural habitats, crime and safety concerns and daycares or schools with restricted free time.

Now that it is summer it is the perfect time to get your kids outside. Whether you are running a summer day care or you are a parent with kids at home, the best thing you can do is send your kids outside. Research shows that there are many beneficial outcomes for children that spend time playing and learning outside.

outdoor play

 Physical Fitness

 When children are outside they are more likely to play in ways that benefit their bodies (i.e. running, jumping, climbing, crawling, walking, etc.) strengthening their hearts, lungs and muscles. This access to exercise is the first step in preventing childhood obesity.

Did you know that many children are deficient in vitamin D? (source: American Associate of Pediatrics) Exposure to sunlight also increases levels of vitamin D which is needed to strengthen teeth and bones.


Motor Skills Development

 Unstructured outdoor play often involves physical activities like rolling down hills, crawling under obstacles, climbing and walking on uneven surfaces, which help develop young children’s gross motor skills. And examining and picking up small objects like bugs, berries twigs can even help young children develop their fine motor skills.


Immune System Development

There is evidence that children who have daily playtime outdoors experience fewer illness related absences from school and daycare.


Regulating Sleeping Patterns

Natural sunlight helps regulate and balance sleep. Getting the proper amount of sleep is one of the most important things for developing children.


Language Development

Young children will notice different sounds and learn to identify and tell them apart. Noticing and discriminating sounds is a foundational skill for later literacy development. While having additional opportunities to make decisions, solve problems and collaborate with others will help promote language and communications skills in older children.


Cognitive Development

Children have a natural sense of wonder and exploration, two important motivators for lifelong learning. When children are outside, this sense of wonder is only enhanced. Unstructured outdoor play helps children learn concepts such as cause and effect and making connections while increasing creativity and imagination. Unstructured outdoor play also helps improve awareness, reasoning, and observation skills; and it has positive effects on children’s ability to focus and pay attention.

The unstructured aspect of outdoor play also has a significant impact on children’s self-directed executive function. In other words, their ability to organize thoughts, plan ahead, self-regulate emotions, initiate tasks, and navigate between multiple activities. This is very important not only for children who are just entering kindergarten, but also older children throughout their school careers. This directly impacts their ability to generate and achieve personal goals throughout their lives.


 Social Emotional Development

When playing outdoors with other children, there is an increase in social interaction between children. Infants and toddlers learn to play with each other when they take turns using pails and shovels, share a ride in a wagon, and chase each other. Through direct hands-on experiences, young children learn to be gentle with living things and with each other


So the benefits are clear. Get those kids moving outside!


If you would like to read some of our other summer play related blogs check these out:

Make Outdoor Play Safe for Young Children

Summer Activity Ideas

Nature Study for Young Children


For more information on the benefits for outdoor play check out these sites:

Supporting Outdoor Play and Exploration for Infants and Toddlers

Outdoor Play Benefits

Let ‘Em Out! The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play In Kindergarten

The Importance of Outdoor Play for Young Children’s Healthy Development



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