Children experience freedom when they play outside. Outdoor play is a natural way for children of all ages to do physical activity. It’s good for children’s health and well-being to be physically active through play. Being active burns energy and can help prevent illnesses in adulthood.
Benefits of outdoor play on children’s health
Children can improve their health and fitness through outdoor play and leisure activity. The freedom and space of being outdoors can encourage more expansive movement leading to good physical exercise and helping prevent obesity.
When they play outdoors, children have fun and benefit from:
- running and chasing which can develop good physical fitness, agility and stamina
- jumping and running which can develop bone density, large muscle groups and stability
- climbing which can develop coordination, balance and strength
- time away from busy routines and time-tables
- freedom to shout, make noise and let off steam
Being outdoors is good for eye health. Spending time outdoors reduces short-sightedness (myopia) in children and young people.
Benefits of outdoor play on children’s well-being
Playing outdoors allows children to develop self-confidence, independence and self-esteem. They also become aware of limits, boundaries and challenge in their play.
When children are used to playing outdoors, they are more likely to:
- try new activities
- engage with others
- solve problems
- explore the natural environment
- make friends
- show resilience
Doing physical exercise every day
As they grow up, children experience rapid and different physical and psychological changes. These changes can influence their future health and well-being.
For physical health and mental well-being, it’s important that children get physical exercise.
By getting regular exercise through play, this can prevent illnesses as an adult including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
Pre-school aged children who can walk independently need to do physical activity for at least three hours every day. Children aged between five and 18 need to do vigorous activity for at least an hour every day.
Making time for playing outdoors
Children playing outdoors enjoy running around, climbing, balancing, dancing, digging and jumping. Parents should allow children space and freedom to play outdoors.
Encourage children to do traditional activities such as:
Playing in the neighbourhood
Get to know your neighbourhood by walking and cycling in the area. Bring your children so they know areas suitable for playing. Agree where they can play and where they must not go. Speak to other parents about allowing their children outdoors to play.
Staying safe outdoors
Teach your children how to stay safe outdoors when they’re young. Show them road safety skills. If you're worried about your child’s safety, stay nearby where they’re playing.
Playing outdoors in all seasons
Whatever the weather, dress your children so they can go outdoors and play.
Wear warm clothes on cold, wet days.
Put sunscreen and hats on your children when the weather is hot and sunny.
There are different things to do outdoors such as:
- jumping in puddles
- flying kites
- building dens
- melting ice
- playing in snow
Limiting children’s screen time
To encourage your children to go outdoors, you should limit their time on digital screens, including mobile technology and televisions.