The benefits of playing outdoors are numerous and interconnected. However, a shift to a technology-first lifestyle has seen increased use of personal devices such as tablets, smartphones, and computers. This has led to less time being spent outdoors, consequently raising concerns around physical health, mental wellbeing, and overall quality of life for both children and adults.
As early years educators, we have the opportunity to champion the advantages inherent in outdoor play and experiential learning, setting healthy habits and bringing balance to our young learners and their families. By providing children with opportunities for outdoor play, we can support their holistic development and help them grow into healthy, happy, and well-rounded individuals.
What are some benefits of outdoor play?
Research has consistently highlighted the numerous benefits of engaging with nature and outdoor play for both individuals and society as a whole. Here are some recent notable findings:
- The European Environment Agency (2022) recognised the benefits of outdoor play for mental health and cognitive development. They also recognised the physical and mental advantages of children living, playing, and learning in green environments.
- A report from Planet Ark Tree Day (2016) emphasised the link between outdoor engagement and health, indicating long term health benefits. They found that time spent in nature reduces a person’s chance of developing a range of illnesses including diabetes by 43%, cardiovascular disease and stroke by 37%, and depression by 25%.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (2018) promotes sustainability by encouraging the integration of meaningful personal connections and scientific knowledge that can be used as a foundation to develop public policies.
Specific to the early years, outdoor play has several important roles in children’s development. Outdoor learning experiences can help children develop vital life skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and communication. When children collaborate outdoors, they acquire the skills necessary to cooperate and resolve conflicts in a constructive manner.
Taking learning outdoors can be a powerful tool for developing conceptual understanding. Children can participate in hands-on activities that breathe life into concepts and facilitate their comprehension of the world in diverse ways. Outdoor learning spaces can aid children in cultivating a respect for living things and nurturing a sense of responsibility toward the environment, empowering global citizenship.
Let’s inspire them to explore and uncover the world around them through nature-based learning and outdoor play, while simultaneously enjoying themselves and honing lifelong skills.
Our outdoor learning poster on the benefits of outdoor play is the perfect champion for outdoor adventures. Share, download, and display it to celebrate the wonders of nature and empower outdoor play and learning!
How to use this resource:
- Share on social media and be an outdoor play advocate!
- Download and display in your learning space
- Add to powerpoints as you share the benefits of outdoor play with your community