Why is Outdoor Play so Important?

Past generations of children benefited from extended amounts of time outdoors and as adults, we recognize that these experiences helped shaped many aspects of our lives.

Recently, we have seen a shift in children’s use and access to the outdoors.

A growing interest in media equipment, such as tablets, televisions and video games has significantly contributed to the rise of a society where more and more children are leading sedentary lives.

Despite the cultural shift, outdoor play remains essential to children’s development and well-being. It is such an important part of childhood and the benefits of learning outside the classroom are endless. The sense of freedom whilst playing outdoors does wonders for a child’s development, both physically and mentally.

The importance of outside play in the Early Years cannot be underestimated and below are just some of the many benefits it offers to children:

Encourages an Active Lifestyle

Children who play outdoors are much more likely to continue to enjoy outdoor activities, such as walking, jogging and cycling as they get older.

Keeping in mind all the gadgets and technology available, outdoor play is an important factor in combatting what is becoming an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Moreover, physical skills are also an important part for children’s growth, particularly physical coordination and the movement of the body. Playing outdoors increases children’s ability to balance, jump, climb, throw, run and so much more.

Appreciation of the Natural World and Environment

Learning in an outdoor setting allows children to learn about the natural elements surrounding us and helps them gain and understanding of the world we live in.

Understanding weather, animals, habitats, sand, trees is so important for children and it is all these experiences that allows children to have an appreciation of the world around them.

Develops Social Skills

Outdoor play provides children with the opportunity to develop their social skills as they interact, negotiate and collaborate with their peers.

It is also a wonderful opportunity for shy children that may feel intimidated in a small classroom setting and helps such children come out of their shells.

Most of outdoor learning is child-led and giving children outdoor learning experiences provides them with a chance to talk about what they have done with their friends, teachers and parents.

Encourages Independence

Being outdoors gives children a sense of freedom to make self-led discoveries. They can develop their own ideas and create games and activities without feeling like they are being directly supervised.

It also gives children the opportunity to begin to understand what they are truly capable of doing by themselves and helps them develop a ‘can do’ attitude.

Understanding Risk

Being outdoors provides children with opportunities to experience risk-taking. They have the chance to part in tasks on a bigger scale and complete them in ways they may not be able to do while being indoors.

They also learn the importance of taking calculated decisions such as, ‘should I jump off this log?’ ‘Can I climb that high on this tree?’ These experiences heavily impact their childhood and plays a role in their growth.