Why Children Should Play Outside More This Summer

A girl is playing outside in summer

Do you remember the times as a child when you would practically beg Mom and Dad to let you play with your neighbors across the street? Bicycles and scooters gliding along the sidewalk, a loose ball (or two) thrown over the fence, and the oh-so-limitless trees to climb?

Life was much simpler when the most thrilling event of the day was the aftermath of an intense game of Manhunt or Parkour. Now, times have gone digital.

When light knee scrapes from running too hard have become sore thumbs from scrolling too hard, it may mean it’s time for a change for our little ones. Summer is the perfect time for kids to step away from screens and have fun in the fresh air.

Though it’s easy to let them play with tablets and video games, it’s essential for their growth that they get outside and play. As one of the core beliefs of the IB® Primary Years Program, children who spend more time outside engage in physical activities, build valuable life skills, and feel happier and healthier.

Teachers’ Perspectives

  • 97% of teachers believe outdoor play is critical for children to reach their full potential.
  • 88% of teachers say that children are happier after playing outdoors.
  • 88% of teachers report that children are more engaged in learning when lessons take place outdoors.

Source: Outdoor Classroom Day 2017 survey

Outdoor Play is Critical To Childhood Development. Here’s How:

Physical Health Benefits

Those activities outside weren’t just fun—they were also secretly keeping us healthy. When kids run, jump, and climb, they build stronger muscles and bones and even improve cardiovascular health. Unlike sedentary screen time, outdoor play helps kids stay fit, maintain a healthy weight, and develop those all-important motor skills—all in the fresh air. Strelitz International Academy, one of the top private elementary schools in Virginia Beach, emphasizes the importance of physical activity as part of its holistic approach to child development.

Mental and Emotional Well-being

When kids spend time outside, they’re exposed to sunlight, which boosts their Vitamin D levels. This helps regulate their mood and improves their sleep quality.

Nature itself can be anxiolytic (therapeutic), lowering stress, anxiety, and even symptoms of ADHD in green outdoor settings. When kids play outside in an unstructured environment, they have the freedom to use their imagination and express themselves, which builds their emotional resilience. So, letting your kids explore and have fun outside isn’t just about keeping them busy—it’s helping them grow into happier and healthier individuals.

Social Skills Development

Children who play outside with friends gain important social skills that help them in everyday life. Playing together teaches them how to talk and listen, work in teams, and solve disagreements. Group games and activities show the importance of sharing and being kind to others. These skills are key to making and keeping good friendships as they grow up. Plus, seeing them have fun and connect with others is a great joy for any parent! This focus on collaboration and communication skills is fundamental in IB® elementary schools.

Academic and Cognitive Growth

Outdoor play is fun and great for cognitive development. When kids explore nature and use their senses, it boosts their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities—playing outside sparks creativity, which can help them perform better in school. This is extremely important, as evidenced in the 2011 paper, The Creativity Crisis: The Decrease in Creative Thinking Scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which showed creativity on a ‘steady and persistent decline’ while IQ increased.

How to Encourage Outdoor Play

Create an Adventurous Environment

Making your backyard or local park a fun and exciting place for your kids doesn’t have to be complicated. Add simple things like a swing set, sandbox, or small garden. These little additions can fire up your child’s imagination and encourage them to play outside more. You can also plan fun family activities like scavenger hunts, obstacle courses, and nature crafts. It’s a great way to make outdoor time more engaging and enjoyable for everyone!

Balance Screen Time

According to The Kaiser Family Foundation, children ages 8-18 get an average of 7.5 hours of screen time every day. This is a problem because the Journal of Preventative Medicine found that children aged 2-17 who spend 7+ hours of screen time a day are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression than those who only spend an hour a day.

Balancing screen time can be a challenge, but setting clear boundaries is crucial to encourage more outdoor play. Start by establishing tech-free zones in your home, like the dining room and bedrooms. You can also set specific times of the day when screens are off-limits, like during meals and an hour before bedtime.

Be a Role Model

Children often mimic their parents’ behavior, so show enthusiasm for outdoor activities by participating in them yourself. From gardening to cycling to a simple walk in the park, your active participation will inspire your children to join in and develop a love for the outdoors. They’ll naturally want to follow along when they see you having fun and enjoying these activities. Plus, spending this quality time together strengthens your bond and helps create lasting memories. It’s the little things that count.

Plan Outdoor Family Activities

Incorporating regular outdoor activities into your family routine can make a big difference, and it’s easier than you might think. Start with weekend hikes to explore nearby trails—it’s a fun way to get some exercise and experience nature together. Alternatively, plan beach outings where your kids can build sandcastles, splash in the waves, and soak up some sun. Even a simple visit to the zoo can turn into an educational adventure, sparking curiosity and wonder about animals and the environment.

Have a Happy and Healthy Summer Break!

Let’s make this summer unforgettable. Contact us at 757.424.4327 to sign up for the 2024-2025 school year at Strelitz International Academy, a renowned IB® school, and give your child the best start to a happy and healthy future! Schedule a visit


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