“It’s a beautiful day, get outside and enjoy it!”. How many times have you heard this throughout your life? Probably a lot! It’s a part of human nature to enjoy the great outdoors (when the weather is to our liking, of course). But did you know being outside can have actual benefits for your child’s development? Engaging in play in nature can help children of all ages with their motor skills, communication, social-emotional skills, sensory integration, and so much more!

Here are some of the benefits of playing in nature.


Nature provides opportunities to explore and create.

The wide open spaces and change of environment can be a great way for children to enjoy some unstructured playtime. Whether it’s playing in the sand or running around the park, nature helps kids use their imagination and creativity while playing.

In a new environment, there’s so much to explore. Exploring can also be a great way to have new social interactions, which helps with building social-emotional skills. Children can work on a scavenger hunt together, or observe an animal or insect with other kids. When exploration is done with peers, it creates opportunities for new experiences and friendships.

Nature promotes the use of executive function skills.

Executive function skills are the life skills we use at every age, and that help us stay organized and independent. With unstructured play in nature, children are using creativity to solve problems and working memory to make up stories. They work their flexible thinking skills by testing boundaries and learning how to stay safe while exploring, creating, and having fun. They are strengthening and challenging their own life skills just by playing!

Children can have new sensory experiences in nature.

The sounds of birds chirping, the smell of fresh cut grass, the feeling of warm sunshine—it’s all new and helping your little one learn! Children can take in so many new sights, sounds, and smells right in their own backyard. As they move more independently, children will also have opportunities in nature to use their proprioceptive and vestibular senses.

New sensory experiences can even help with developing language skills, because kids can learn how to identify what they’re seeing, smelling, hearing, and feeling!

Outdoor activities to encourage kids to play in nature

Playing outside promotes physical exercise and motor skill development. From running to biking to scooping sand, so much of outdoor play includes fine and gross motor movements. Studies show children use more energy outdoors, because they are moving and exploring.

Being outside can reduce feelings of anxiety in children. Studies have shown time outside helps children feel relaxed. Because they are concentrated on their external environment, children focus less on internal feelings of worry or fear. Learning and exploring promotes confidence, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety in the long term.

So now that we know how awesome nature is for children, let’s get outside! Here are some fun outdoor activities for kids to play in nature:

Check out these tips for keeping kids safe while playing outside!

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