Why we should encourage children to play outdoors

Hellooooo spring. We’ve missed you.

We may not be out of the cold weather woods just yet, but today, the first official day of spring, we have license to celebrate. We can start counting down to all the fun outdoor things — Spring Break, the last day of school, opening day of the local swimming pool, SUMMER. It’s just like the late actor Robin Williams said: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”


The best way to enjoy spring is to get outside, of course, and this is extremely important for children. Right now many of them still spend long days at school desks, and have fewer available hours run off some energy outdoors while their bodies reap all the benefits of the sun’s Vitamin D.

But those hours are back. Spring is here. Daylight abounds. And outdoor play provides numerous benefits for young minds as they wrap up the school year.

Physical fitness

Starting positive exercise habits early is key to lowering obesity rates and fighting chronic disease. And it can be as simple as saying, “Go play outside!” When children play outdoors they’re getting natural exercise that’s fun and rigorous — games of tag, riding bikes or playing ball all provide exercise and help burn built-up energy.

More than 12 million children in the U.S. are obese. While childhood obesity rates are higher than they were a generation ago, they are slowing, and in some states actually decreasing. Aiding that decline are initiatives to add more physical activity and healthier food and drink options in school settings.

Mental health

Sunshine + exercise = happier children. That seems like a pretty simple equation, but it’s true — exposure to sunlight and exercise help your brain produce more of the hormone serotonin, which lifts your mood and makes you feel more calm and focused. At a time when children are fighting depression more frequently, educators and childcare workers report outdoor play helps decrease children’s stress levels and increase self-esteem.

Academic performance

Sending a child outside to play in an unstructured environment promotes the use of a healthy imagination. There are no video games, no TVs, just the devices of nature. Taking children outside with little instruction on what to do encourages them to build their own activities, promoting focus and creativity. Seventy-eight percent of teachers say they believe regular, unstructured time outdoors leads to better concentration and, ultimately, better academic performance.

Field Day is an excellent time to add outdoor physical activity to the school routine. Promote outdoor play to your students with these Play All Day shirts, and find a few activities to make your Field Day a success!