Encourage your child to play outside! Know 11 benefits of outdoor play

Children should spend some time outdoors, as it is good for their health. Let us tell you the benefits of outdoor play for kids.
Happy child on a swing
Outdoor play is healthy for children. Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 15 Mar 2024, 20:39 pm IST
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Whether they are three years old or 10, children tend to spend a lot of time on gadgets. But as a parent, you should encourage outdoor play. Playing outside is good for children, as it improves their physical and mental health. It helps to boost their immunity, maintain a healthy weight and improve sleep quality. So, they should spend more time in nature rather than sitting in front of screens. They can always go to a nearby park or playground if you don’t have a backyard. Read on to know more health benefits of outdoor play for kids.

What are the health benefits of playing outdoors for children?

Outdoor play offers numerous health benefits for children, both physically and mentally. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing found an association between playing outdoor and improved mental well-being, cognitive development and overall health of kids.

Children holding hands and running
Playing outdoors can help to maintain a healthy weight. Image courtesy: Freepik

Here are some benefits:

1. Physical exercise

Outdoor play encourages children to engage in physical activities like running, jumping, climbing, and biking. These are essential for developing gross motor skills and maintaining a healthy weight, says paediatrician Dr Santanu Sen.

2. Vitamin D absorption

Sunlight exposure during outdoor play helps children’s bodies produce vitamin D. It is a vitamin crucial for bone health, immune function, and mood regulation.

3. Enhanced motor skills

Activities like swinging, balancing, and throwing improve children’s coordination. They also help to improve balance, and fine motor skills.

4. Strong immune system

Exposure to natural elements outdoors helps strengthen children’s immune system. It makes them more resilient to illnesses, says the expert.

5. Stress reduction

It is not just adults who get stressed. Children have academic pressures that can cause stress. Outdoor play provides a natural environment for stress relief, helping children relax and unwind.

6. Improved vision

Spending time outdoors may help to reduce risk of developing near sightedness in children. It may be due to exposure to natural light and distant views, says Dr Sen.

7. Social interaction

Outdoor play often involves group activities with other children. These promote social skills like cooperation, communication, and conflict resolution.

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8. Enhanced creativity

Outdoor environments offer endless opportunities for imaginative play, allowing children to explore, create, and invent games. They just need natural elements like sticks, rocks, and sand.

9. Better sleep

Physical activity and exposure to natural light help regulate children’s sleep-wake cycles. This leads to improved sleep quality as well as duration.

10. Cognitive development

Outdoor play stimulates curiosity and problem-solving skills as children explore their surroundings. They observe nature, and engage in open-ended play scenarios.

11. Emotional well-being

Nature can improve mental health, and has a calming effect on children, reducing feelings of anxiety, depression, and ADHD symptoms. It so promotes a sense of well-being and connectedness to the natural world.

Two children pushing a child on a swing
Reduce children’s screen time and encourage them to play outside. Image courtesy: Freepik

How to encourage children to play outside?

You can take several steps to encourage your child to reduce screen time and play outdoors.

1. Set limits

Establish clear and consistent screen time limits for different devices and activities based on age and individual needs. Use tools like parental controls and screen time management apps to enforce these limits.

2. Lead by example

Children look up to their parents, and want to do what their mom and dad do. So, be a positive role model by not dedicating much time to checking phones or watching TV. You should also actively participate in outdoor activities with your children.

3. Create a screen-free zone

Make some of the areas in the house, such as bedrooms and dining space, screen-free zones. This will help to promote family interaction and reduce the temptation to check screens.

4. Plan outdoor activities

Schedule regular outdoor playtime as part of daily routines, and plan fun outdoor activities that appeal to your child’s interests. It can be biking, hiking, picnics, or visits to parks and playgrounds.

5. Provide outdoor toys and equipment

Offer a variety of outdoor toys, sports equipment, and materials like balls, jump ropes, chalk, or gardening tools. These will help to encourage independent outdoor play, says the expert.

You can also discover the wonders of outdoor play with engaging activities for kids.

  • Explore nature’s beauty with a scavenger hunt, searching for treasures like colourful leaves, interesting rocks, or hidden animal tracks.
  • Challenge agility and balance with an obstacle course using items like hula hoops, cones, and jump ropes.
  • Go on a nature hike, discovering hidden trails and diverse wildlife.
  • Embrace the thrill of flying kites on breezy days, mastering the art of wind control and aerial manoeuvres.

While indoor play can be beneficial too, the unique combination of physical activity, natural light, and sensory experiences found outdoors makes it a healthier option overall.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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