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The Hood Magazine

Why Outdoor Play Benefits Children

Jun 26, 2021 10:04AM ● By Sioux Falls School District Head Start/Early Childhood Program

By: Sioux Falls School District Head Start/Early Childhood Program 

Young children have a need for activity; not only does it help them develop physically, but it benefits them cognitively, socially, and emotionally. Children learn by playing and repeating activities over and over again to help them master skills. This builds their confidence, and they are more willing to try even more challenging activities. Outdoor play reduces stress as spending time outdoors is calming. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who play outside more often have greater academic success as they mature. Children who daily play for one hour outdoors were better able to think creatively and to multitask – all essential skills!   

In high quality preschool programs, children have time throughout the day to practice their physical skills and to play outdoors. In many instances, there is time to play outside in the morning and afternoon.   

If you are unsure as to how much outdoor play your child is getting while at daycare or preschool, why not play outside together every evening as a family? This is not only great for children, but adults benefit from outdoor play.   

To promote general health and safety while playing outdoors, here are a few guidelines to remember.   

  1. Children need access to drinking water while playing.  They can become dehydrated quickly and easily while playing in the heat and hot sun. The best liquid for hydration is plain water. Have water breaks on a frequent basis and encourage children to sip frequently.   

  2. Children need sunscreen while playing. Children’s skin can burn easily and the easiest way to prevent a burn is to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 about 30 minutes prior to playing outdoors. Even in a shaded area, the sun’s reflection on objects can burn tender, young skin.  Check the expiration dates on your sunscreen prior to using.     

  3. Most of all, have fun playing with your child.  Talk with your child about what she or he is playing with and doing. They have fun imaginations and find delight in the simplest of activities. Plus, you are creating memories that will last a lifetime!  

By incorporating outdoor play to your family’s summer routine, you will watch your child blossom over the summer. 


Epstein, A.S. (2012).  Physical Development and Health.  High Scope Press. Ypsilanti, Michigan.     

Yogman, M., Garner, A., Hutchinson, J., Hirsch-Paske, K., MichnickGolinkoff, R. (2018). The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children.  Pediatrics.   

Cronan, K. M., (2017, October).  How to Choose and Use Sunscreen.  Kid’s Health. Retrieved 6/1/2021.