What Your Child’s Teacher Wants You to Know About Outdoor Play: Part 1

With back-to-school schedules, getting outside to play suddenly drops in our priority lists. By the time we’re getting after school snacks, and backpacks put away, homework done, we feel like we don’t have time to play outside anymore! Here are the thoughts from two early childhood education professionals on the importance of getting outside, what they wished parents knew, and why the result is well worth the hassle.

Megan Brown, a preschool teacher in Cincinnati, said that it’s hard to think of areas of development not strengthened by outdoor play. It’s not just the physical development, but “what’s more surprising to parents are the social/emotional benefits that children are missing.” These benefits include problem solving, taking initiative and analyzing risks, reduced anxiety, and an appreciation for nature and their environment.

Cary McKay, professor at California State University, Bakersfield, echoes the importance of outdoor play on building more than just physical development. She wants parents to be able to appreciate that “the complicated and always changing nature of outdoor play has profound implications for their child’s future,” and that these profound implications are the very formation of children’s brains. Being challenged outdoors builds numerous brain connections, and does so in faster and longer lasting ways, which improves problem solving, awareness, and anticipation and planning.

Getting outdoors, even if for just a few minutes a day, provides vast benefits to children, and their homework!