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  • Writer's pictureVicki Manning

Helping your child make the most of the outdoors

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Child outdoors climbing through tree

I love getting the kids outside, whether it's to local woods, parks or just in the garden, the outdoors is naturally entertaining so I don't have to work anywhere near as hard as when we're indoors. It also burns off energy so they eat well and sleep better. Bonus!

Child outdoors lying in sand

Have you ever thought about the benefits of spending time outside? It does seem like hard work sometimes, but it's worth trying to make some time for it as your child will learn so much!

The benefits of outdoors play

Improves both physical and mental health

Fresh air and exercise is good for physical health, and nature helps trigger the production of serotonin, the 'happy hormone'.

Gives opportunities to take risks

If we allow children to take playful risks then they will gain a sense of self and good judgement.

Allows more physical exploration

Outdoors play has none of the rules and restrictions of indoors play and pretty much everything can be played with.

Tactile learners can handle and manipulate their environment

Tactile learners are children that focus and learn better when they are handling objects - outdoors spaces are perfect for hands-on learning opportunities.

Child outdoors blowing dandelion clock

Encourages imaginative play

Natural materials are 'open-ended', which means they have no pre-determined way to be played with - this allows your child to be creative in how they are used.

Helps play to be spontaneous and unstructured

Outdoors play is mostly child-led, so your child can play in their own way, with a true sense of freedom.

Improves communication and use of descriptive language

Your child can build their vocabulary, through observing animals and plants, talking about their actions or creating new games.

Encourages independence

Outdoors spaces are generally safer environments (no cars for example), so your child can put more distance between you and them.

Toddler using watering can to water plants outdoors

Gives more physical freedom due to the space

There is more space outdoors so your child is able to move their body in more ways and develop their gross motor skills.

Prompts conversations about the environment

You might see some litter when out, and talk about how important it is to pick it up, or spot some signs of wildlife and talk about how we can look after them.

Increases attention span and memory

A study in Norway in 2017 found that there is a direct link between the number of hours a child spends outdoors and their ability to concentrate and retain information.

Develops observational skills

The outdoors stimulates your child's senses through what they hear, touch, see and feel - it encourages them to be aware of their surroundings.

Baby sitting outdoors looking at grass

We have seen that children have much to gain from venturing outdoors, but sometimes it can be difficult to motivate them to step away from the screen. The best way is to help them gain a natural love and enthusiasm for outdoors play by incorporating it in your daily life.

How to foster a love of the outdoors

  • Go for regular walks or bike rides as a family.

  • Show curiosity and interest in nature.

  • Give your child appropriate clothes and permission to get dirty.

Toddler outdoors in playground

  • Use nature as play equipment - balance on logs, climb rocks, stomp on mole hills.

  • Involve your child in gardening e.g. raking grass after mowing or watering plants in a window box.

  • Go camping - if you're not convinced with sleeping under canvas, try hiring a pod.

Children camping outdoors, sitting by campfire

  • Join the National Trust or your local Wildlife Trust as they have lots of outdoor spaces.

  • Carry a pocket guide so you can identify any interesting flora or fauna.

  • Have picnics at parks or playgrounds.

Child outdoors in rockpool with crab on spade

  • Visit interesting areas like forests, rockpools and mountains on your next holiday.

  • Meet up with other families so your little ones can explore together.

  • Go out in all seasons and weathers.

Child outdoors in fog standing in puddle

The wonderful thing about playing outdoors is that there are so many opportunities for your child to play and explore that you don't need to worry how you're going to entertain them. But sometimes they run out of inspiration, or it's just nice to mix things up a little bit.

For those times here's a list of some fun ideas:

Child outdoors using pinecones to make arrow

Free outdoor activities

  • Have a scavenger hunt

  • Build a den

  • Look for mini-beasts

  • Play i-spy

  • Make some transient art

  • Look for animal tracks

  • Sow seeds together

  • Listen to the birds

  • Go geocaching

  • Create a mud kitchen with old pots and pans

  • Make a journey stick using wool

  • Climb trees

  • Use creative tools in the garden e.g. water and a paintbrush

  • Collect pinecones, feathers etc. for a loose parts collection

These are just some of our favourite things to do outside, there are loads more ideas here. If you want a bit more inspiration, these are our favourite books about playing outdoors:

Book - go wild in the woods

Go Wild in the Woods by Goldie Hawk & Rachael Saunders

book - the usborne outdoor book

book - forest school adventure

Forest School Adventure by Naomi Walmsley & Dan Westall

Does your little one enjoy playing outside?


The benefits of outdoor play


For more playful and creative learning ideas visit:



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