• Lechlade Little Learners

The benefits of outdoor play in early years

For some people outdoor play can look messy, chaotic and unstructured. Children are often seen running around, shouting and getting dirty. For those of us looking on at the play we can sometimes miss the benefits and the learning opportunities that are being had but within outdoor play there are numerous benefits. Outdoor play allows children to express themselves without the constraints of four walls. When outdoors children can run, jump, shout, climb and do many things that cannot be done indoors.

The NHS states that toddlers and preschool children should have a minimum of 180minutes (3 hours) a day of physical exercise. This can be in a variety of ways but why not combine this with learning? Physical exercise and being outdoors stimulates the brain and improves both physical and mental health. As a result children are more engaged and open to learning and will have a more positive view of learning.

The idea of outdoor play and its importance for children can be found as far back as the nineteenth century when Friedrich Froebel founded the Kindergarten. The name Kindergarten means 'garden of children.' This shows the importance of children being outdoors and in nature. Froebel was a pioneer of early childhood education and care and has influenced pedagogy and curriculum in many countries including in England. This is shown in the Early Years Foundation Stage where it states that children must have access to the outdoors. This can be through going to the park and for walks but having access to a garden ensures children can constantly access the outdoors and really get the most benefit from outdoor play.

Below are the many benefits of being outdoor and outdoor play:

Health and wellbeing

  • Children are able to achieve their daily recommended activity

  • It encourages a healthy lifestyle

  • Increased vitamin D

  • Helps to improve sleep

Social skills

  • More space outdoors to allow more children to join in activities

  • It has a calming effect

  • Helps with the development of friendships

  • Helps with self confidence

  • Allows some children to experience things they don't often get to experience

  • Less restraints allow children to explore and socialise easier


  • The environment always changes which keeps children more stimulated

  • Children explore the world they live in

  • Children take more risks

  • Supports commination and language

  • Children are able to cover all areas of the EYFS when learning outdoors


  • Children are more curious and will explore the outdoors

  • We can use our senses to explore outdoors

  • Builds confidence

  • Push boundaries and become good at risk assessing


  • Children's imaginations are more stimulated

  • Children are able to use the environment around them to create

  • Creativity takes on a whole new level outdoors

  • The great outdoors offers a huge amount of loose parts allowing children to fully use their imagination

Care and concern for the environment

  • Children are much more aware of the world around them

  • They see how things grow

  • Children learn about animals and plants around them and how to care for them

With so many benefits why would we want to stay indoors?

So lets get outside no matter the weather and fill our hearts with happiness and joy, you never know you might actually feel like a child again.

Blog written by Hazel Adamson (Preschool Manager)

Froebel Trust | Froebelian principles

Physical activity guidelines for children (under 5 years) - NHS (

Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (

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