6 Crucial and Irreplaceable Benefits of Outdoor Play for Kids

Outdoor play is crucial for kids' physical, emotional, and mental development. Learn the benefits of outdoor play for kids in this article!

One of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is unstructured time outdoors. By letting kids loose in the backyard or at a nearby park, they have the opportunity to explore, create and just be kids.

Unfortunately, the onslaught of gadgets, gizmos, and entertainment options has meant that kids spend less time playing outside. In fact, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children aged 8-18 years old spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using electronic media each day!

And while technology has its share of benefits, there’s something special about outdoor play, like climbing a treehouse playground, that can’t be replicated indoors. Here are the crucial benefits of outdoor play for kids:

1. It helps them to develop physically

Children ages 3-5 have an incredible amount of energy. They need to be able to run, jump, and climb to help release all that excess energy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even recommends that children aged 3-5 should be active for at least 3 hours daily.

Outdoor play is the perfect way for kids to get their recommended dose of physical activity. They can run around, explore their surroundings, and use up all that energy – without even realizing that they’re exercising!

How does this happen?

When kids engage in outdoor play, they use large muscle groups like their legs, arms, and trunk.

This helps to promote gross motor skills development, which is the ability to control large muscles in the body. Some examples of gross motor skills include walking, running, and climbing.

These are important skills for kids to develop as they lay the foundation for future abilities like riding a bike or playing sports. 

When kids don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity, they’re at risk for developing obesity and other chronic health conditions. Check out keeping kids safe on the playground for more info. 

2. It’s great for their mental health

Did you know that outdoor play can also have a positive impact on kids’ mental health? A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that time in nature can help reduce stress and anxiety.

The researchers believe that this is because being in nature helps to lower the heart rate and blood pressure, which are both signs of stress. In addition, time in nature can also help to improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

How does this happen?

When you let your kids play outdoors, they’re getting a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They have the opportunity to disconnect from technology and clear their minds. This can help to reduce stress and improve mental well-being.

Nature also has a way of promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. The sights and sounds of nature can help to soothe and relax the mind, which is why spending time outdoors is often recommended for people who are struggling with anxiety or depression.

3. It boosts their creativity

boosts their creativity

If you’re looking for ways to encourage your child’s creativity, you don’t need to look any further than your backyard! Outdoor play is a great way to encourage kids to use their imaginations.

In the great outdoors, kids have the freedom to explore and create. They can build forts out of sticks and leaves, climb trees, and pretend to be their favorite animal. Treehouses and Swing Set Parts are also great outdoor play structures that can help to spark kids’ imaginations.

How does this happen?

When kids are left to their own devices outdoors, they have to use their imaginations to come up with games and activities to keep themselves entertained. This encourages them to be creative and think outside the box.

4. It helps them to develop cognitively

Crucial to children’s cognitive development is something called “executive function.” This refers to a set of mental skills that help kids to control their thoughts and actions.

Kids aged 3-5 years old are still developing their executive function skills. Some examples of executive function skills include:


  • Inhibitory control (the ability to resist impulses and refrain from acting on them)
  • Working memory (the ability to remember and process information)
  • Cognitive flexibility (the ability to think about things in different ways)

These skills are important for kids to develop as they lay the foundation for future success in school and life.

How does outdoor play help?

According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, outdoor play can help to improve executive function skills in young children.

The researchers believe that this is because outdoor play provides kids with opportunities to practice self-regulation. 

For example, they might have to resist the urge to run off or climb something they’re not supposed to. This helps to develop inhibitory control, which is an important executive function skill.

5. It improves their social skills

Children are often more social when they’re outdoors. They’re more likely to approach other kids, initiate conversation, or join in on a game.

Think about it – when you play sports or games outdoors, you’re more likely to interact with other people than if you were playing the same game indoors. That’s because outdoor play encourages kids to be more active and engaged with their surroundings than they would be indoors.

How does this happen?

When kids are outdoors, they have more opportunities for unstructured play. This type of play is important for developing social skills. In unstructured play, kids must learn how to interact with others, share resources, and resolve conflicts.

For example, if two kids want to swing on the same swing simultaneously, they have to figure out how to share. This helps them learn how to compromise and negotiate – important social skills they’ll use throughout their lives.

6. Outdoor play helps develop gross and fine motor skills

Gross motor skills refer to the large muscles in the body that are used for movements, such as the muscles in the arms and legs.

On the other hand, fine motor skills refer to the smaller muscles in the body used for activities such as writing and buttoning a shirt.

Both gross and fine motor skills are important for kids to develop because they lay the foundation for future academic and occupational success. Failing to develop these skills can lead to difficulties later on in life.

How does outdoor play help?

Outdoor play is a great way for kids to practice and develop their gross motor skills. Activities such as running, climbing, and riding a bike require large muscle groups.

Fine motor skills can also be developed through outdoor play. For example, picking up small objects, threading beads, and building with blocks all require using small muscles in the hands and fingers.

Final Thoughts

Nowadays, it’s more important than ever to get outside and play. With the rise of technology and the growing popularity of sedentary activities like video gaming, outdoor play has taken a backseat.

However, outdoor play is crucial for kids’ physical, cognitive, and social development. While technology should not be completely set aside, parents should also encourage their children to play outside as often as possible, as long as they’re doing it safely and under supervision. 

Sandy Villamor

Call me Sandy, a writer, and blogger of LifeStyleConvo & UrbanHouses, who worked as a full-time content creator. A writer by day and reader by night.

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