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How children play outdoors is different from their play inside. It tends to be more physically active, children report feeling more freedom while playing outside, and the outdoor environment has the potential of exposing them to natural elements and open air. As a result, the kind of benefits that children experience from outdoor play can be different from indoors.

Children need time to engage in high quality, unstructured outdoor play in natural environments. 

Natural environments are ideal to

  • help children learn to be more connected with nature and develop a better environmental awareness;
  • promote cognitive and social development by providing children with more challenge, changing conditions and stress-buffering conditions. 

Outdoor play in natural settings is associated with increased physical activity in young children, which in turn 

  • boosts their physical health; 
  • improves their mental well-being;
  • improves their attention behaviours, self-regulation, and working memory; and
  • can improve their executive functioning.

Clearly, outdoor play should involve changing conditions, such as found in nature, to maintain children’s interest in play, encourage them to adapt, interact with their peers, take risk and test their abilities.