Why Outdoor Play is Important to Childhood Development

Children need to remain active throughout the day; promoting outdoor play allows them to get fresh air and explore their environment more. Hands-on learning, the natural environment and loose parts in the outdoors stimulate children’s senses through what they hear, touch, see and feel.

Outdoor play is an important part of childhood. It’s exciting to see children in their natural environment – exploring their surroundings, being curious about what’s around them and finding joy in seeing new things. As a child, I always remember running around the park, digging and dumping sand in the sandbox, and climbing up and going down the slide.

It is sad to see children spending less time outside. A recent study in the UK found that children today spend half of the time outside compared to their parents. As an educator, I know how vital outdoor play is to a child’s overall development and learning. Studies have shown that children can learn a lot from playing outdoors – from improved spatial recognition to simply understanding environmental tendencies. Simple activities such as seeing leaves change, running and jumping in rain puddles, or watching the flowers sprout during the spring, can make such a great difference.

The Benefits of Outdoor Play

Outdoor play improves physical development

Physical skills are important for growth, physical coordination and the movement of the body. When children play outdoors they increase their ability to balance, jump, climb, throw, run and skip.

More friends! (aka improved social development)

Outdoor play provides children with the opportunity to gain social skills by interacting, collaborating and negotiating with others.

Increased Imagination

Being outdoors gives children the opportunity to pretend to be anything they want, for example, to be a bear in the wild or a chef in the kitchen.

Gain knowledge and appreciation for the natural world

Children learn about the natural elements and their surroundings when they are outside. For example, they learn about the weather, the change in seasons, and different animals that are found outside.

Easy and Fun Outdoor Activities

Flower Ice Cube Sensory Play

You will need:

  • 2 ice cube trays, water, a bunch of flowers from the garden and a freezer


  1. Place one single head of a flower in each cube
  2. Pour water over flowers and place the ice cube trays into the freezer and leave overnight.
  3. Take the trays out of the freezer and push the flower ice cubes out into a bowl.

Chalk Roads

You will need:

  • 1 bucket of colored chalk and an empty area in the playground on the concrete.


  1. Draw big and small circles and color them in and draw vertical and straight lines.
  2. Let the children jump from circle to circle and walk along the vertical and straight lines without falling over.
  3. Make a game out of it and let the children balance, run, jump and skip. Allow children to explore and have fun.

Make sure you’re not missing learning milestones by levelling up your observation techniques!

10 tips for effective observation in early childhood

why outdoor play is important to childhood development

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