Outdoor Playtime

Our Children Need Outdoor Playtime!

Children need to spend some time outside every day, even when it is rainy or cold. Researchers have found that moments outdoors are especially good because it helps with the physical, mental and cognitive development of a child. Additionally, most of the studies agree that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.

Recommendations are that every child, even infants, should spend an hour to an hour and a half outside each day. This time outdoors can be structured play time, outdoor learning and nature walks, or even participating in activities such as gardening. The consensus is clear: nature is good for everyone!

Physical activity outside releases endorphins which helps to support:

  • Physical development
  • Weight management
  • Gross and fine motor skills
  • Creativity
  • Self-confidence

If your child is in child care, talk with your provider to find out the program’s policy on outdoor time. Potential questions to ask your child’s provider are:

  • Does your program provide daily outdoor time every day? If so, how much?
  • What is the policy on going outside when it is rainy or cold?
  • If your child is an infant, how is their outdoor time spent?
  • Visit the outdoor area to ensure that all of the play equipment is well maintained and safe.


  • Have you ever seen edible paint? Make some at home for your baby to use outside on himself, paper or other materials you decide will work. (Look for the edible paint recipe below.)
  • Grab a blanket and a few toys that you only play with outdoors and have tummy time outside! Then roll over and point out clouds, birds and squirrels and listen to the nature sounds.
  • It’s recommended that infants receive a minimum of 60 minutes outside each day. If it’s cold, bundle them up. Rainy? Use an umbrella. Too hot? Go outside in early morning and late afternoon.

AGE 1 TO 2

  • Oh, the fun you can have with large cardboard boxes! Grab a few, or a store bought tunnel, and see what all you can make: an obstacle course, a house, a boat on the ocean! It’s whatever your child can imagine!
  • The weather may not be so delightful, but children need time in the fresh air anyway. Rainy and cold weather are what raincoats and winter coats are designed for! Wrap your child up and brave the weather.
  • One-year-olds should spend at least 90 minutes outside each day. If you can’t find time to spend outside for great lengths of time, steal away for small chunks of time.

AGE 2 TO 3

  • What toddler doesn’t love a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” or “Ring Around the Rosy”? Something tells us that you’ll be tired before the children are.
  • Take storytime outside. Choose a book that talks about the seasons, nature or outdoor fun. See if you can recreate a scene from the book.
  • Finding activities to keep your toddler occupied outside won’t be hard to do as they are so curious at this age. Experts recommend at least 90 minutes spent in nature each day for two- and three-year-olds.

AGE 3 TO 4

  • Too rainy for outside time? Nonsense. Grab a coat, some shoes that can get wet, and an umbrella. Then, go conquer some puddles!
  • Create your own outside bowling fun. Recycle nine clear one-liter bottles to use as bowling pins. Add water and different colors of food coloring to make them cheery and fun while weighting them down. Use a soccer ball as the bowling ball. Set up the pins on a walkway with the grass being the alleys. Next thing you should hear is “strike!”
  • Three- and four-year-olds won’t have a hard time filling 90 minutes full of outdoor fun. Be sure to apply sunscreen when outside for long periods of time and keep water readily available.

AGE 4 TO 5

  • Plan a scavenger hunt using letters! Equip all participants with a pencil and piece of paper with 8-10 letters written on it. See who can find the letters first. (Make sure to first scout out a walk where all letters can be found.)
  • Remember Freeze Tag, Simon Says and Red Rover, Red Rover? Schedule a playdate with some friends and introduce the kids to the fun, outdoor games of your childhood!
  • It’s recommended that preschoolers have 90 minutes of outdoor time each day. Recess and PE held outside counts for this total, but be sure to encourage extra time outside once they are home from school. The play time will help them transition to home, work off some stress from the school day and make them happy!

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