How Important Is it for Children to Play Outside?

By Josie Myers
Outdoor play is an opportunity to invent games.
Outdoor play is an opportunity to invent games.

With so many television shows and video games teaching children how to count, read and acquaint them with science and nature, you might wonder why outdoor play still is so relevant in this technological age. Outdoor play has a tremendous influence on all kinds of development, from physical and emotional to social and personal.

Physical Benefits

Some physical skills are much easier for children to develop outdoors. Running, jumping, throwing, catching and skipping are among large motor skill activities that are developed best outdoors. Being outside encourages lots of movement, which reduces the risk of obesity, a growing epidemic among the young. The National Association for the Education of Young Children points out that recess and outdoor play also reduces tension and stress. In a world jam-packed with directed activities, simply running without direction can take some stress off of young children.

Intellectual Development

Intellectual development in children is aided when they are able to experience a range of senses and are able to use those senses along with their bodies and minds, according to NAEYC. Being outdoors requires kids to use their touch, sight, sound, scent and even sometimes taste, along with their major muscle groups. Compared with television, which only uses the sense of sight and sound, being outdoors naturally increases the chances of quality learning.

Social Development

Outdoor play is more likely to lead to the invention of games. Whether a prince is rescuing the princess from a tower, or red rover is being altered with new rules, children adapt play to their surroundings. This unstructured and inventive play not only leads to additional cognitive development, but teaches social skills and builds self-confidence. In addition, children who are outdoors, particularly in a number of environments, are more comfortable outside of the confines of their home. These children are able to transition better into new settings and show courage when they are introduced to new places and people.

Kids Being Kids

Beyond all other benefits, outdoor play is a way for kids to let loose and be who they are. If you leave a group of 8-year-old children together long enough in a small room, it can quickly turn to ear-splitting noise and physical activity not suited to the indoors. These loud and large movements are not unwelcome outdoors. Kids can safely and appropriately release that energy by running, being loud and getting messy outside.

About the Author

Josie Myers has been a freelance writer and tutor since 2008. A mother of three, she was a pre-kindergarten teacher for seven years, is a Pennsylvania-certified tree tender and served as director of parks in her local municipality. Myers holds a Bachelor of Arts in music and business from Mansfield University and a Master of Arts in English from West Chester University.