Children & Outdoor Play

Provided by ModernMom

For many adults, their happiest childhood memories revolve around outdoor play — spending time in their own backyards or at a neighborhood park. And, of course, recess was an outside activity as long as the weather was cooperative. The good news is there are still plenty of good times for children to have outdoors.


While children are enjoying outdoor play, most of them don't realize they are experiencing several benefits, such as letting out frustrations by running, exercising their large muscles, building social skills and learning about nature. All of these benefits can come from just a short amount of time outside every day. Whether playing organized games or just walking through a vacant lot or field, children can learn a great deal about the world by stepping into an outside environment with an enthusiastic adult.


For many kids, the fun of playing outdoors is simply running around, exploring and using their imaginations to do whatever occurs to them. Children need this kind of minimal-supervision outdoor time. It's also worthwhile, however, to direct children's observations about the weather and other environmental factors, asking questions and generating curiosity. Kids can also enjoy outdoor games that require a lot more space than a classroom or even a gymnasium can offer.

Weather permitting

Parents and teachers may think the weather prohibits outdoor time for kids when, actually, except for extreme heat or cold, most kids can actually spend a little time outdoors nearly every day. In winter, kids need layered clothing, gloves and hats that cover their ears. In summer, long-sleeved, thin cotton shirts and sun hats are vital. And in both summer and winter, sunscreen is imperative.


For some children, opportunities for outside activity are part of every school day. In addition to recess, some schools have environmental science labs that take kids outdoors, and some physical education classes do as well. Parents who are concerned that their children get little or no time outdoors should approach school administrators to find out what they can do to change the situation. Kids who are in school all day need the chance to run around outside after school. Signing children up for softball or soccer leagues increases their outside time.


All children younger than middle-school age need supervision when they play outdoors, even if it is just one adult keeping an eye on neighborhood play. At school, an adequate number of teachers should monitor playground activity. Even with supervision, kids should play only in areas that are protected from traffic-filled streets and free from hazards that could cause injury.

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