5 Reasons why your child needs plenty of outdoor play, no matter what the weather + 10 Ways to achieve this!

As the weather turns colder, it’s so easy to cosy on up indoors and leave outdoor play time for the warmer months. Getting all the winter boots, hats and scarfs on can seem super time consuming – especially with little children but the truth is this: your children need to get outside and so do YOU.

Here are 5 reasons why your child needs outdoor play no matter the weather*

  1. Getting outdoors Boosts your Mood: According to research conducted by Cambridge Health Alliance getting outside regularly into nature helps to reduce anxiety, stress and depression. It also has memory enhancing effects. This is not only great for your children, but you too.
  2. Getting Outdoors Helps Kids engage in imaginative, independent play: with the natural world at their fingertips, it’s so much easier to play creatively without the distractions of TV and screen time.
  3. Getting Outdoors is a fantastic ‘circuit breaker’ for when the kids are going crazy: tired of your child jumping off the couch and running indoors? It’s quite likely that they aren’t getting enough time outside. Running, jumping, climbing and playing outdoors will help your child calm down when they are indoors.
  4. Getting Outdoors Helps keep children fit and healthy: Young children don’t really need after school sports clubs to keep fit – they just need time to play outside and explore what their body can do. It has also been found that outdoor time (even in winter) can help reduce illnesses. According to Harvard Health Online, it’s actually the indoors that makes children more likely to catch viruses. Outdoor time also means increased exposure to Vitamin D and melatonin which helps boost the immune system.
  5. Getting Outdoors is Great for the brain: spending all day inside doing schoolwork isn’t actually good for children – they need to spend time outdoors exercising and playing as it helps the brain form connections between neurons. This helps children to concentrate when they are learning.

So we’re agreed that outdoor play is crucial but how long should children be spending outside each day?

This might sound unbelievable but three quarters of children in the UK spend less time outside than prison inmates! As playtimes in schools decrease and parents have become busier (and worried about safety) outdoor play time has dwindled.
Most experts agree that children should spend at least 2 hours outside each day. I personally consider this as a minimum goal rather than a target.

10 ways to Make Outdoor Play Easier:

  1. Dress for the weather. Buy snow boots, wellies (gum boots), waterproof trousers in neutral colours so they can be passed down to younger siblings.
  2. Take snacks and drinks in a backpack
  3. Break up the time: if you need to, divide the time into 2x 1 hour blocks or even 4×15 minute blocks
  4. Change YOUR mindset: your attitude towards the outdoors will impact your child’s attitude. Check out the infographic below for more help on reframing your view of outside time.
  5. Assess your outdoor resources: outside play doesn’t have to be expensive – you can create a simple mud kitchen with old pans and a wooden palate. A huge box of Crayola chalks has endless possibilities.
  6. Choose a preschool/nursery that supports outdoor play: before enrolling in a preschool, check how much outdoor time the children get, especially in a city where outdoor space is limited.
  7. Join a Forest school playgroup. Check your local parent groups for Forest Schools and Nature Groups. If there isn’t one, get a group of your friends together – this website has lots of helpful advice on outdoor play groups.
  8. Switch up your schedule: too hot in summer? Get outside early in the morning and during the early evening. Too cold in winter? Get outside before and after lunch.
  9. Weekend adventures: if your time is minimal during the week, go out for longer adventures on the weekends.
  10. Where possible walk. If you don’t need the car to get to school or nursery, walk instead – visit the local park on the way home and turn your journey into an adventure.

How to Reframe ‘Too’ Statements around outdoor Play

Our children’s attitude towards outdoor play will ultimately come from us as parents. If you find yourself quickly dismissing weather and outdoor play time, try reframing your attitude. You can right-click on this photo to save it to your Pinterest board!

outdoor play reframe guide

*Of course, there will be occasions where the weather is too bad and you cannot get outside. Always use your common sense and don’t venture outside when the conditions would be dangerous to do so.

Want more?

Read our recent blog post on risky play here.
Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.