How does outdoor play benefit children's learning?

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Nowadays children (and adults) spend more time inside, which is not a good thing. Playing outdoors has many benefits, but playing indoors is lacking. Read more about what the study from the Harvard University says about the benefits of outdoor play.

5 reasons why children need outdoor play


1. Sun

Children (as well as all people) need sun exposure for our bodies to make Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important in terms of the immune system and bone development. So, our bodies work better if they get some sun every day!

Remember sun lotion, hat, and sunglasses to make playing in the sun safe!


2. Exercise

Different countries seem to have their own guidelines about how much time children should exercise per day but the golden line is that all children need some active exercise every day!

According to the Harvard University, children should move 60 minutes actively per day.

According to a Finnish UKK-institute, the timelines are higher. Children under 8 years should move around 3 hours a day. One hour should consist of active physical play and exercise (eg. jumping on the trampoline, running, swimming). Children should also get two hours of light exercise on top of that (eg. walking in the forest, swinging, cycling).


3. Executive function & Self-regulation

According to the Harvard University executive function and self-regulation skills are important mental processes that enable us to: plan, focus, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks. These skills are crucial for learning and development, and they enable positive behavior.

Children are not born with these skills but with the potential to develop these skills. To develop these skills it is important to encourage children to creative play, involve vigorous exercise, and over time, provide opportunities for directing their own actions with decreasing adult supervision. Free outdoor play promotes all of this.


4. Taking risks

The outdoor world may be more bumpy, sharp, tingling, and 'dangerous' than indoor play areas, but also taking risks is part of childhood and part of overall learning.

"The lessons we learn from failure are just as important as those we learn from success."

, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing


5. Appreciation of nature

The world is changing, and not for the better. Climate change and global warming cause severe impacts on the nature around us. Some people are more vulnerable to climate impacts and they may experience difficulties with growing food, housing, and health. That is why we should teach all children to care about the environment from early on.

"If a child grows up never walking in the woods, digging in soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand what there is to be lost. The future of our planet depends on our children; they need to learn to appreciate it."

, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Let children put their hands in sand and mud, let children walk barefoot, let children smell flowers and plants, and let children roll in the grass! When children experience nature from close, they also learn more about nature, plants, animals, and weather.

Recycling also promotes learning and appreciation of nature.


Happy playtime outdoors!