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Play & Progress​

The Sneaky Science of Outdoor Play

16 April 2024

4 min.

The joy of outdoor play is a universal part of growing up. Thinking back to your own childhood outdoors, do you remember how free you felt playing games of tag and rounds of hide-and-seek? What about swinging from trees or feeling the grass between your toes? Odds are these activities have become core memories from your time as a tiny explorer.

While outdoor play has obvious physical benefits, there are some other goodies sneaking their way into your child’s development every time they play outside. Beyond the immediate fun, outdoor play can have positive psychological, emotional and social benefits. Read on to explore how the great outdoors serves as an invaluable playground for nurturing healthy, happy children.


The Physical Side

Let’s start with the obvious: the physical benefits! There are so many ways to engage in outdoor play, and you can probably bet that your child has explored most of them. Whether it’s running around with friends, swinging from monkey bars, or playing sports, these activities all enhance motor skills by improving muscle strength, coordination, and balance.

Research indicates that children engaging in outdoor activities exhibit robust physical development, thanks to these varied movements that challenge their bodies in new and exciting ways.

Another significant physical benefit of outdoor play is the exposure to sunlight, which is a natural source of vitamin D. This sunshine vitamin is crucial for bone health, immune function, and even mood regulation. And remember, even if it’s cloudy outside vitamin D still finds a way to add its benefits.

Outdoor play is a fantastic (and fun) way for youngsters to soak up some vitamin D, reducing the risk of vitamin D deficiency. And while it gives their mood a helpful boost, are there additional psychological benefits?

The Psychological Advantages

The psychological plusses of outdoor play are as vast and varied as the landscapes children explore.

When faced with the unpredictable elements of nature, children develop resilience and adaptability. Each stumble and subsequent rise teaches them perseverance, a valuable lesson in emotional strength and resilience.

There’s also something to be said about how the outdoors have a way of reaching children’s imagination and creativity that isn’t always possible inside.

The unstructured, open-ended nature of outdoor environments encourages children to invent games, craft stories, and engage in imaginative play. In nature, a stick on the ground can be a mighty sword, a tree trunk a throne, and spiky bush a dragon to vanquish.

This ability to use their imagination and creativity not only entertains but also enhances cognitive abilities, problem-solving skills, and even academic readiness.

Social Skills at Play

The social dynamics of outdoor play are rich with opportunities for learning and growth. Children learn to negotiate, cooperate, and navigate social hierarchies during group games and shared activities.

This is especially evident during school recess, where social dynamics are navigated through outdoor games and activities.
This social interaction is crucial for developing empathy, understanding, and communication skills, laying the groundwork for healthy social relationships in the future.

How Can You Make their Outdoor Time as Enriching as Possible?

Given the many benefits of outdoor play, it’s important for parents, educators, and caregivers to encourage and facilitate regular outdoor activities for their young ones.

This can include setting aside specific times and toys for outdoor play, providing access to safe outdoor spaces, and even participating in outdoor activities to model active behaviour.

If you’re in need of a bit of outdoor inspo to spark their creativity, our Pocket Swing turns any sturdy tree into an adventure. It’s easy to set up, making it ideal for camping, hiking or even setting up in the garden. For even more toys to help make your child’s outdoor time fun and freeing, check out our Nature Fun range. It’s packed with toys to help nurture their sense of exploration, curiosity and adventure.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that there are some not-so-seen benefits of outdoor play that contribute to the holistic, healthy development of our children. Encouraging children to step outside and immerse themselves in nature’s playground not only enriches their childhood but also sets a strong foundation for a happy and balanced life.