13 Fascinating Benefits of Outdoor Play

Since the goal of this blog is to provide ideas to get your kids outside, I thought it would be a good idea to pause for a moment and talk about why it’s so important. It’s kind of human instinct that being outdoors is good for you. But when you start looking at the details, there are tons of amazing benefits of outdoor play!

The wonderful thing is that the benefits of outdoor play aren’t just physical. There are also mental, emotional, and social benefits! All around, playing outside is crucial for children’s overall development, health, and wellness and can have a huge impact on their future. The benefits of outdoor play are so numerous and important that it’s definitely worth taking the time to highlight!

So whether you need some extra motivation or are simply curious, here are the amazing benefits of outdoor play for your children!

1. Better Sleep at Night

Being exposed to sunlight helps put us in back in sync with our body’s natural circadian rhythm. So when kids are exposed to sunlight, especially in the morning, their bodies naturally signal that it’s time to sleep when nighttime hits. Not to mention fresh air and exercise also help tire out the kiddos!

2. More Developed Gross Motor Skills

Young boy swinging from rope ladder in tree- improved gross motor skills are one of the benefits of outdoor play

When kids are playing outside, they’re more likely to engage in a variety of movement like running, climbing, jumping, etc. One of the benefits of outdoor play due to this activity is the development of stronger muscles. (Use it or lose it!) This in turn helps their balance, coordination, and strength.

3. Less Likely to be Obese

This is less due to the outdoor aspect and more reliant on the condition that kids actually move around while playing outside. But generally, being outdoors lends itself to greater likelihood of movement. As a result, kids who spend more time playing outside are less likely to be overweight. Promoting an active lifestyle while young also helps create a foundation that is more likely to develop good habits that will be carried over into adulthood!

4. Lower Levels of Stress and Anxiety

Many of us have had the experience of feeling stress melt away after a walk in the woods (or whatever your outdoor activity of choice). This is no coincidence. One of the benefits of outdoor play (and time spent outdoors in general) is experiencing lower levels of stress and anxiety.

This is because sunlight produces serotonin (the feel-good hormone) in our brains. Because of this phenomenon, time spent outdoors in nature naturally has a calming and happy effect on the mind.

5. Promotes Brain Development

The benefits of outdoor play are not just limited to the physical. The cognitive benefits are numerous as well! When children play independently outdoors, they use reasoning skills, problem solving, and independent thinking. Being outdoors in a larger environment is also much better suited for developing spatial awareness and perception of shape, depth, and size.

6. Strengthens the Immune System

Activities like playing in the mud exposes kids to plenty of bacteria and microorganisms, which helps build immunity. Exposure to sunlight also plays a part in warding off sickness. Vitamin D that we get from the sun is essential in stimulating cells that find and kill pathogens in our body!

7. Promotes Social Development

The benefits of outdoor play can even extend to social awareness! Often, kids are playing outside with other kids, which forces them to be more thoughtful and learn to cooperate and work together. On the playground, they learn how to share equipment and take turns. They also get to observe group dynamics and see what’s acceptable behavior.

8. Experience Milder Symptoms of ADHD

It seems like the number of kids being diagnosed with ADD and ADHD has skyrocketed. And I’m no scientist, but…perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we expect kids to sit still in classrooms all day at very young ages rather than spend time playing and being active? Studies have shown that kids diagnosed with these disorders have much milder symptoms when they regularly spend time playing in outdoor settings.

9. Reduced Risk of Nearsightedness

When kids play outside, they are exposed to natural light and spend time looking at faraway objects rather than staring at a screen. Both of these can reduce the chances or our kids developing nearsightedness in the future!

10. Helps Develop Independence

I don’t know about you, but it’s a huge priority for us to build independence in our kids and help them learn to perform necessary tasks on their own. Allowing them to play outside independently (within considerable reason) will allow them to develop the ability to do more and more things on their own. Which leads me to the next point…

11. Builds Confidence

Children who play independently and have success accomplishing new things on their own will develop confidence! The opportunity to engage in risky play outside can also help in this area. One of the many benefits of outdoor play is that it provides a healthy environment for kids to take risks. If we rush in to help our kids with everything, we’re sending the message that they can’t be trusted or aren’t capable of doing it on their own.

Kids need the opportunity to overcome obstacles and challenges on their own! This creates resilience and results in kids who don’t get defeated or give up on tasks as easily. Risky play also gives kids the ability to make safer decisions as they naturally test barriers and see results and consequences of certain actions. Here are some tips and guidance for parents and educators to safely facilitate risky play.

12. More Likely to Appreciate Nature and Care for the Environment as an Adult

When children experience the beauty of nature and witness natural processes firsthand, they’re much more likely to harbor a desire to care for the environment than a child who is simply told that they should!

13. Promotes Creativity and Imagination

When kids aren’t being entertained by a screen or toys, they’re forced to come up with their own ideas for scenarios and play. It’s good to allow kids to get a little bit bored sometimes! Then they’re forced to use some imagination and come up with ideas on their own. Unfortunately, kids who are over-scheduled or constantly given activities to do are never allowed this opportunity.


Spending time outdoors is crucial for the health, wellness, and development of children! The mental, physical, social, and emotional benefits of outdoor play are numerous and can have a huge impact on kids. Even if you start small, start getting your kids outside today to reap all of these wonderful benefits!

Information for this post was drawn from the following articles:

Looking for some ideas to help your kids spend more time outside to reap all these wonderful benefits of outdoor play? Check out our bucket list of summer ideas or find the best toys to encourage play in your backyard!

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