Making The Most Of Summer: How Playing Outside Helps Children Grow

Summer is my favorite time of year! I love everything about it–the warmth of the sun, the longer days, and all the opportunities to just be outside. When I was a child the last day of school could not come soon enough. As the final bell rang, all I could think about was how awesome the summer was going to be and what all I was going to do, such as, swim, ride my bike, climb trees, and spend time with my friends.

What I did not know, was that all these plans I looked forward to and enjoyed were beneficial and helped me build developmental skills that lasted well into my future!

Preschool children learn through play, and summer time is one of the best times to get outside and do just that. When children play they are free to explore and experiment. With technology, video games, and cell phones new generations are becoming more sedentary than past generations.

Children need to be encouraged to explore and be outside to experience the benefits and build cognitive, physical, and social skills. I am sure you are wondering how does being outside benefit or help my child build cognitive, physical, and social skills, right? Check out the list below to learn what many early childhood professionals already know.


  1. Children who are physically active have lower rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
  2. Children that have supervised unstructured outdoor play are calmer and pay more attention.
  3. People who are outside often have higher levels of vitamin D, which in return are sick less often because they have a strong immune system and have stronger bones.


  1. Increased flexibility
  2. Increased fine and gross motor skills
  3. Running, jumping, balancing and climbing are forms of exercise that use muscles to build muscle strength, balance, and coordination.


  1. Children learn about cause and effect (when I am swinging, and I use my feet I can go faster and higher).
  2. Children learn special awareness (up, down, over, under, below, behind, back and forth)
  3. Problem solving and how to follow directions an example would be playing a game or sports.
  4. Think creatively

Social Skills

  1. While playing together children learn how to communicate and get along.
  2. Children acquire self confidence when they learn and accomplish new skills.
  3. Children learn how to control voice volume and pitch for the appropriate environment.

Ideas To Encourage Outdoor Play

  1. Take a trip to the park or nature trail
  2. Add water (Sprinkler, sand and water table, local pool, lake, beach).
  3. Provide toys outside (Legos, cars, sand pail, shove, magnify glass, jump rope, hula hoop)
  4. Scavenger hunt
  5. Collect rocks, leaves, flowers, bugs, etc.
  6. Play a sport (baseball, basketball, etc.)
  7. Provide a bicycle and other ride on toys
  8. Involve children in outdoor chores (wash the car, gardening, walk the dog)
  9. Spend outdoor time together (invite family or friends over, build a fire, go camping, play family games, go fishing, go for a walk)
  10. Limit electronic use. Set a time for electronics and stick to that time limit.

To get the maximum benefit of the outdoors make sure to fill your child’s summer days with play!