Why Children Need Outdoor Playtime

Children and adolescents spend far fewer hours playing outside than they did in past decades. Free time, which was once filled with hours of unstructured play in the backyard or park, is now consumed by structured sports and inside sedentary activities such as TV, video games, computers and the Internet. Think that unstructured outdoor play is just all fun and games or a waste of time? Think again! Scientists are discovering that outside free play offers immense benefits for a child’s growing mind and body. Benefits include decreased risks of cancer, heart disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obesity and depression. Outdoor free time also appears to slash incidences of colds and flu. Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, stress the importance of encouraging young children, especially preschoolers, to engage in ‘active, unstructured, outdoor play.’ Parents and daycare providers should use language and words that engage children in physically active outdoor play involving movement. To this end, experts suggest using the word ‘play’ with preschoolers to encourage movement and exercise. Outdoor play should be encouraged not only for its effects on physical health, but also for its benefit to a child’s wellbeing.

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