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The Importance of Outside Play in Early Childhood

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All the signs that fall is on the way are here; back-to-school sales, the beginning of football season and yes, the days are getting shorter. Now is the time to take advantage of daylight hours before playtime is limited by those early nights. There are many health benefits to be gained from fresh air and sunlight, both of which become limited once kids are in school all day and darkness falls at dinnertime or earlier!

Researchers once thought that myopia (near-sightedness) was hereditary, accounting for the high number of myopic children in some Asian countries but now they believe it could be due to excessive time spent indoors studying and a lack of outdoor exposure resulting in low exercise and poor eye muscle control from too much screen time. From boosting strength, bettering eyesight, building muscle coordination, improving sensory skills and developing social relationships, you can see the importance of outside play in early childhood is critical to healthy development.

Kids love to play outside; It gives them a chance to explore, practice skills and build self-confidence. However, not all kids are born naturalists. Some kids need a little prodding to get them away from their favorite indoor pastimes. Here are some of our favorite ideas for getting kids off the couch and outdoors to soak up all the daylight they can before it’s back to school!

Schedule an Outdoor Playdate

Playtime is always more fun with friends! Invite a few of your child’s friends over for an outside activity that everyone will enjoy. It doesn’t have to be fancy, think sidewalk chalk or one of our other outside art project ideas, or prepare a simple scavenger hunt in advance with small prizes for all. If you’ve got an athletic group, try hula hoops, beanbag toss or break out the scooters! In addition to the physical and mental benefits of outside play, your child will benefit from social development as well.

Host a Patio Potluck

Host a small get-together with a few families and let the kids play together. Set up a space for serving food and eating and everyone can bring a main or side dish to share. It’s a great chance for your kids to try new foods, interact with adults and play with kids their own age. Eating dinner outside is always a treat! After the meal, divide up into teams for some friendly games like this pool noodle soccer ball croquet

You don’t need to plan a party to enjoy dinner outside. Your family can dine al fresco and then enjoy some quality outdoor bonding time with the kids after.

Get Wet

Kids love to play in the water! If you have a yard where you can set up a sprinkler, that alone can keep kids amused as they run and jump through the spray. Or fill a few large containers with water and bring the tub toys outside. Water activities are a great way to have fun and learn about simple physics, even for very young children. Check out these great home projects for examples; Rain Gutter River and DIY Water Wall, both of which can be done in small outdoor spaces!

Art and Playtime in the Park

We love art activities because they’re portable and something the whole family can enjoy together. Whether you pack a picnic and enjoy lunch or dinner first, or just head out for some art time, grab your pencils, crayons, pastels or colored markers, a few pads of paper and you’re good to go. Parks are filled with great subjects for sketching; trees, leaves, people, flowers and water features. Let your kid’s imagination go wild as they pick the subject for everyone to sketch. 

When you’re ready to take a break, stretch out muscles and get some physical activity in by having a race, playing hide-and-seek, tossing a ball around or even doing some simple yoga poses!

Take these last weeks of summer and focus on the importance of outside play in early childhood to make the most out of the long days and warm weather. What is your child’s favorite outdoor game or activity? Share it with us in the comments!