Outdoor play and young children's health

Childhood experiences are affected by the changing societies. Outdoor activities are reducing, adding to more inactive lifestyles, detached from the natural world. Contrary to popular beliefs, occasions for outdoor play are fading, due to urban growth, technological advancements, and globalization.

Nevertheless, it is important to recognize the significance of outdoor play in young children’s health. According to recent studies, educational activities that move from indoor activities to a regular outdoor environment improves children’s health and wellbeing considerably. There’s a pressing need to change the trends so that children can freely access outdoor play and playground environments.

There is no one-size-fits-all to this. It depends on what kids do when they are outdoors and where kids actually play. This article will explain the importance of outdoor play in early childhood education and its benefits to their mental, cognitive, and physical wellbeing.

What is outdoor play and why is it important for young children?

The outdoors constitutes an open and continuously changing environment, where children can come in contact with natural elements, experience freedom, and enjoy boisterous movements. The precise structures and stimulus of the playground environment offer diverse play prospects that can scarcely be reproduced inside.

The way kids play when they are indoors is quite different from the way they’ll play when they are outdoors. Their plays tend to be more physically engaging when they play outside. Outdoor environments and outdoor play allow kids to become familiar with the world around them and the natural habitat. Children need to be physically active from an early age,  particularly to control the growth of children’s obesity and overweight.

Likewise, it is crucial for kids to remain active during the day, so they can explore their environments and enjoy the fresh air. They need the opportunity to engage in high-quality and free outdoor activities in natural settings. The natural settings help kids to develop better environmental awareness and improve social and cognitive developments.

Children benefit from being able to apply and develop their large-muscle capabilities. They can express themselves unreservedly and boisterously. They are exposed to sunlight, natural elements, and open-air, when they engage in outdoor activities. These activities help their bones to develop and builds a stronger immune system.

The importance of risk for early childhood education

Most parents are afraid of the potential accidents that might occur, which impacts their attitudes towards outdoor play. Consequently, children are kept inside, engaged with structured activities, and restrained by adults. Car accidents, interaction with strangers, and other environmental hazards are the most prevalent factors that prevent parents from allowing their kids to play outdoors.

It’s natural to worry that your kids might get hurt during outdoor plays. Your young child might also be worried about trying something new outdoors. It’s all part of the outdoor environment, which shouldn’t keep you and your young child from enjoying the outdoors.

It’s totally fine for your children to play beyond the boundaries of your home, where they can easily run faster, jump higher, and climb further. In today’s society, we neglect the significance of risk for early childhood education and development.

The culture of fear prevents us from completely realizing what kids can do. This in turn creates a “riskier” learning environment, where kids are denied the opportunity to learn by experience, how they can stay safe. What we fail to understand is that opportunities to surpass personal restrictions usually emerge from situations such as climbing trees, pulling objects, running around, or using a tool.

Parents can help by interpreting risky signs and giving the child room to explore. If we try to prevent every risky situation, children will never learn on their own. It is important to assume a broader vision of risk, going outside the likelihood of mishaps to contemplate the positive implications associated with the feelings of victory and contentment when a challenge is conquered, or a new skill is acquired.

Getting your kids into the outdoors

Parents, teachers, and other caregivers should endeavor to get their kids to play outside as much as possible. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big event. What you basically need is an outdoor space. Older kids do not need much encouragement to play, once you send them outside, they’ll come up with activities to entertain themselves. However, younger children need your guidance to stay safe.

The significance of outdoor play cannot be overlooked. Given that most children love the idea of ‘helping out,’ you can get your children to help out with watering the garden, weeding, hanging clothes on the line, or cleaning the driveway.

You can even take them for a walk to the park, especially if you don’t have a playground. Your kids are more likely to interact with other kids they meet at the park or local playground. You can even take that opportunity to teach your child about pedestrian safety.

You could take younger children out of their stroller, so they can stretch their little legs for a while. When you walk with your kids or get involved in their outdoor activities, you show them that you value physical activities too. Other outdoor activities could include riding bikes.

List of outdoor play for children of different ages

Some fun ideas for outdoor play with babies include:

  • Crawling on the grass through old boxes or other safe outdoor equipment.
  • Enjoying tummy time on a towel, blanket, or picnic rug.
  • Counting the number of cars that pass by or looking at different street signs and/or traffic lights.
  • Bird watching.

Fun activities to explore with your toddlers:

  • Running or playing tag.
  • Walking or strolling.
  • Jumping around trees, over stones, or towards favorite objects.
  • Blowing bubbles and chasing them.
  • Throwing and chasing balls.
  • Pushing or pulling different toys and objects.

Fun activities for preschoolers:

  • Building a cubbyhouse from boxes, baskets, clothes, and other equipment.
  • Making mud pies with dirt and old cooking equipment.
  • Climbing over fallen trees.
  • Crawling through tunnels.
  • Playing games such as hide-and-seek or tag.

Fun activities for school-age children

  • Tree climbing.
  • Building and creating things with furniture and other things you can find outside.
  • Playing chasey or twiggy.


Reference links