How Does Outdoor Play Support Children's Learning?

outdoor play supports children's learning
Here are 5 benefits outdoor play has on your child’s physical, emotional, and social development

Playing outdoors and exploring their surroundings is crucial to a child’s development. Not only does outdoor play improve a child’s physical skills, but it also helps them stay emotionally and mentally healthy as well.

  • Preschool-age children (ages 3-5) should be as active as possible throughout the day. 
  • School-aged children and adolescents (ages 6-17) need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

5 benefits outdoor play has on your child’s development

1. Improves physical health

Outdoor play helps children strengthen their muscles and joints. Getting enough physical activity during the day also helps them sleep better at night. Being exposed to sunlight is also a great way for children to get vitamin D, which is essential for their growing bones. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to a good amount of sunlight during the day are less likely to get myopia or shortsightedness. 

2. Gives them confidence in their motor skills

As children improve their coordination, they gain balance and agility. Learning new skills like climbing a tree or throwing a ball, and then practicing these skills again and again, helps them to be more confident in their movements and abilities. This trains them to try new things and take up seemingly difficult tasks with greater ease.

3. Promotes mental well-being

Nature has a restorative effect on the mind. It improves concentration and engagement, and can make a child feel calmer and happier. Children who spend time outdoors in fresh air and natural light are less likely to have behavioral issues. They are able to burn off pent-up energy that may otherwise lead to tantrums or hyperactivity

4. Improves social abilities

When kids play outdoors with other children, they learn how to cooperate with others, work in teams, and are more self-aware of how their behavior affects the people around them. Being outside instead of confined in a room also helps give them space to breathe and may make them more open and willing to experience new things.

5. Instills an appreciation for nature

As children play outside, they experience different terrains, appreciate new textures, and learn words for their surroundings. Children who spend time outdoors also learn about different plants, trees, birds, and animals in a way they can’t through books. The more a child learns about nature, the more likely they are to appreciate and value the environment and continue to do so in adulthood.

Harvard University. How to Motivate Children: Science-Based Approaches for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.

New Parent Support. The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children.