12 Benefits of Outdoor Play for Child Development

It is undeniable that kids love to play and enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. From digging in the dirt to playing in the sand, the benefits of outdoor play are truly endless.

Unfortunately, because of today’s busy and rushed society, the average American child only spends about 4-7 minutes each day outdoors.

Allowing your kids the time to interact freely with nature will help them learn and develop in so many amazing ways.

12 Amazing Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children

Learning about the different benefits of outdoor play will help encourage you and your child to spend less time inside and more time playing in nature!

Even the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that doctors begin prescribing play for child development.

1. Better Physical Health

Outdoor play is one of the best ways to encourage physical exercise for your child.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who use play as a form of exercise have lower BMI, and better immune, cardiovascular, and endocrine system functioning.

Another surprising health benefit is that one hour of outdoor play every day can actually reduce a child’s risk of developing myopia, also known as nearsightedness by nearly 14%.

2. Improved Sleep

The exposure to natural sunlight helps regulate your child’s circadian rhythm which helps develop healthy sleep patterns.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently published a study showing that the use of electronic devices affects nearly 30% of children’s sleep. They found a strong link between screen media usage and a delayed bedtime with an overall decrease in total sleep time.

As a result of this study, the NIH recommends children have more playtime outside in the natural sunlight to help develop healthy sleep habits.

3. More Learning Experiences

Play is a powerful learning tool in early learning. Interacting with the outdoors is a great way to enhance your child’s vocabulary while also teaching them early math and science concepts.

From counting the acorns on the ground to observing the different plants and animals, the learning experiences of outdoor play are truly endless.

Child benefiting from outdoor play

4. Improved Mental Health

To help your child get a mental and emotional boost, try implementing more outside playtime.

Research shows lower rates of depression and decreased stress for those children who spend more time playing out in nature.

So pack a picnic, and let your child play and explore the great outdoors!

5. Enhanced Confidence

Climbing trees, interacting with animals, and roaming the playground are all great ways to encourage your child to take chances in a safe environment.

When children try new things and take risks, they become more confident in their abilities and are better able to cope with challenging situations.

This doesn’t mean you should abandon all safety rules but try to allow your child to explore and play in a safe outdoor environment.

6. Vitamin D Exposure

According to the NIH, in the United States 50% of children ages 1-5, and 70% of children ages 6-11 are deficient in vitamin D.

The lack of this important ”sunshine vitamin” has many negative side effects. Not only does a vitamin D deficiency affect a child’s bone mass, but it can also prevent a child from reaching their genetically determine height.

Letting your child play outside during safe daylight hours will help boost their vitamin D exposure!

Vitamin D as benefit of outdoor play

7. Motor Development

A great way to improve your child’s motor development is to let them run, jump, and play in the great outdoors!

As children dig through the dirt, they are strengthening those little muscles in their fingers and hands which is a very important pre-writing skill.

When they run around and play fun outdoor games, they are working those larger muscle groups which is important for gross motor development.

8. Emotional Regulation

A major school readiness skill for children is the ability to control their behaviors and emotions.

There is strong evidence to show that school-aged children who spend more time outdoors have better impulse control, less anger and aggression, and are more likely to show kindness to their peers.

Research has also proven that children who had more access to green spaces during their childhood years were less likely to develop behavior difficulties like hyperactivity and ADHD.

9. Better Academic Success

It is not suprising that outdoor recess time is a vital part of academic success. However, 30% of U.S. preschoolers do not receive any recess time due to increasing academic pressures.

Schools that offer a sufficient amount of outdoor playtime have found greater academic success as the children grow and mature.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, access to recess has been proven through many research studies to increase a child’s attentiveness and productivity within the classroom.

Sand play during outdoor play

10. Sensory Development

Interacting with nature provides so many amazing sensory benefits for children.

Smelling the flowers, listening to the birds, and playing in the sand are all amazing sensory experiences to help your child learn and develop.

Kids naturally engage all 5 senses when playing outdoors which makes it very easy to create a rich learning environment.

11. Social Development

Playing outside, especially with family and friends, is a great way to develop your child’s social skills.

As children play various outdoor games, they learn how to share, take turns, follow directions, and cooperate with others.

Learning these important social skills early on will help them succeed later on in life.

12. Less Screen Time

Unfortunately, the average American child spends nearly 5-7 hours in front of a screen every single day. Between watching TV, doing school work, and playing video games, children are constantly in front of screens.

While there are many negative effects of prolonged screen time, a recent research study from Japan has found that implementing more outdoor time is a great way to reduce many of these negative outcomes.


Time spent outside provides so many amazing benefits for your child’s development. Not only is it a refreshing time but it also leads to better physical, mental, and emotional health.

So, take advantage of this amazing opportunity to help your child grow and develop by simply letting them play and interact with the natural world.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the many benefits of outdoor play for children. Happy playing!

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