Why is outdoor play important for children?

Updated April 17, 2017

When children play outdoors, they are developing mentally, emotionally and physically. Having fun is one very important part of unstructured outdoor play, but it's not the only part. In many ways, outdoor play helps children to grow into healthy adults.

Physical Fitness

When kids play outdoors, they stay far more active than they would otherwise, which keeps them healthy and in shape. When they're exploring and playing in nature, they stay fit without even trying.


Outdoors, children learn they don't need to depend on video games or other technology for entertainment. They develop their own creativity as they make up their own games.

Caring About Nature

When kids spend time outdoors, it helps them to feel connected with nature and care about it more, as Richard Louv stresses in "Last Child in the Woods."


Outside, kids learn about nature by interacting with it, developing a fascination and hands-on understanding that helps them to succeed in school. They begin asking questions on their own, developing inquisitive minds.


Unstructured outdoor play is crucial to a child's development, as Louv says. In a society where kids are often rushed from one activity to another, free play outdoors reduces stress and teaches kids to always make time to simply enjoy life.

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About the Author

Melanie J. Martin specializes in environmental issues and sustainable living. Her work has appeared in venues such as the Environmental News Network, "Ocean" magazine and "GREEN Retailer." Martin holds a Master of Arts in English.