Take it Outside: The Benefits of Outdoor Play

Take it Outside: The Benefits of Outdoor Play

By Kathryn Peck

In today's digital age, children are drawn to screens - my own included - whether for entertainment, education, or social interaction. In the midst of the afternoon’s “no screens” rule, my older kids come home and have homework to do, which requires that they open their Chromebooks and get to work. Technology has its benefits, but the importance of outdoor play can't be overlooked. Encouraging little ones to play outside provides a host of physical, mental, and social benefits that contribute to their development and well-being.

Physical Health & Fitness

Outdoor play is an excellent way for children to engage in physical activity, which is crucial for their growth and development. Without even knowing it, they’ll be running around or kicking a ball around, all the while building their strength, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness.

Mental Well-Being

Mental health is the buzz word as of late, and for good reason. Getting outside can help. Natural light and fresh air have been shown to improve mood and reduce stress. Engaging with nature can spark a child’s creativity and imagination. Whether they are building forts, pretending to be explorers, or simply observing insects, children can find endless opportunities for creative play in the great outdoors.

Social Skills & Teamwork

Outdoor play, be it with friends, siblings, or team sports, nurture social interaction and teamwork. Children learn to communicate, collaborate, and resolve conflicts while playing games and participating in sports. These social skills are crucial for their development and can lead to stronger friendships and improved interpersonal relationships.

Cognitive Development & Confidence

When children play outside, they often explore their environment independently. This sense of exploration and adventure can boost their confidence and self-esteem. Overcoming obstacles, taking risks, and achieving goals in outdoor settings can help children develop a sense of competence and independence; exploration and problem solving (e.g. how to climb a tree or how to build a sand castle) foster the development of critical thinking skills.

Improved Focus & Academic Performance

Research has shown that children who spend more time playing outside tend to have better focus and perform better academically. They say that outdoor play can help reduce symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and improve concentration. The physical activity and mental stimulation associated with outdoor play can often translate into better classroom performance and a more positive attitude toward learning.

Kids still want to stay inside? We all have our struggles. Here are a few products that might help get them over the hump and outside for some fun. 

  1. Donut Sidewalk Chalk by Twee. This isn't your average sidewalk chalk! Surprise your kiddos with this one-of-a-kind donut chalk, complete with 100% usable sprinkles and fillings - ideal for drawing up something yummy on your sidewalk. Try pictures, coloring, obstacle courses, hopscotch and more. 
  1. Terra Kids Exploration Magnifying Glass by Haba. You can't beat this observational magnifier for outdoor adventures and hikes with the kids! Young explorers can get a closer look at beetles, spiders, pebbles and other natural treasures from really close up. The nylon strap and aluminum carabiner make it easy to carry and keep accessible when opportunity arises!
  1. Neato! Rocket Balloons by Toysmith. After inflating the balloon, let it go and watch it fly! Kids of all ages will have fun with this timeless retro toy. Plus, inflating balloons to their 40” length is easy with the included two-way pump.

  1. Insects Toob by Safari Ltd. A dozen c​rawly, squirmy, and a little wiggly plastic insects in the palm of your hand, including a caterpillar, dragonfly, centipede, grasshopper, housefly, ladybug, spider, honeybee, cockroach, scorpion, praying mantis, ant, and 2 butterflies. Perfect for indoor or outdoor play.

  1. Terra Kids Scoop Net by Haba. This Scoop Net is an essential piece of equipment for all little explorers and discoverers! The telescopic handle makes it possible to fish out floating treasures from the water and an easy to grasp handle makes it perfect for small hands. The sturdy mesh net is easy to rinse and clean out.

Encouraging kids to play outside is one of the best investments we can make in their health, happiness, and development. From physical fitness to cognitive growth, the benefits of outdoor play are profound and far-reaching. So, the next time your little one reaches for a screen, consider guiding (or forcing!) them outside instead.


About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.

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