December 3, 2023

How Does Outdoor Play Help Emotional Development?

4 min read

Kids who play outside regularly experience a variety of sensory experiences that can help them build a deeper understanding of the world around them. This includes a range of sensory stimuli that is much more complex than watching television, such as mud squishing in their hands or the feeling of wind on their skin.


Outdoor play is an excellent way for kids to build self-confidence. In indoor settings, kids may feel overwhelmed by the noise and competition that surrounds them, but outside they have space to explore, take risks and work on their own. Whether it’s climbing on the monkey bars or throwing a ball around with friends, kids have the opportunity to overcome their fears and discover a sense of accomplishment.

Children who have experienced a range of emotions during outdoor play are better equipped to understand the behavior and actions of others, such as seeing their friend’s frustration at a loss and learning how to solve problems peacefully. This emotional development can also help them process their own feelings and develop a more positive outlook on life.

It’s not uncommon for kids to experience some tears, a scrape or a fall during outdoor play. These ‘risky’ experiences help them learn how to bounce back from failure and become more confident in their own abilities. This confidence can translate into a more positive approach to other activities, such as schoolwork or social interactions.


Spending time outdoors helps children develop the skills they need to become happy, confident individuals. It also teaches them to reflect on their own emotions, which is important in emotional development. It also allows children to learn how to regulate their mood and manage stress.

Playing outdoors enables kids to explore a variety of physical activities that they can’t find indoors. This makes it easier for them to build different educational skills, such as math or science. In addition, playing outside can give kids an opportunity to take reasonable risks and challenge themselves, which is a critical part of learning.

When kids play outside, they have a chance to meet children with different backgrounds and personalities. This can help them develop a more diverse perspective and learn how to accept and respect others. They can also benefit from the natural environment’s ability to produce Vitamin D, which is essential for their mental health and happiness. This is because Vitamin D reduces levels of cortisol in the brain, which is a natural stress-relief hormone. This translates into improved concentration and emotional stability.

Social skills

During outdoor play, kids can learn to use their imagination and work with friends. They can also test their boundaries and push themselves physically. They can improve their observational skills, for example, when they try to solve a puzzle or climb up to the top of the slide. They can explore and experiment in a way that isn’t possible indoors, such as feeling the squish of mud or watching an ice cube melt.

In addition, the natural environment has a wide variety of sensory experiences that can help kids develop cognitively, emotionally and socially. This includes learning about the weather, for instance, how wind can lift a kite or blow leaves around or how sunshine warms their bodies.

Unstructured outdoor play helps children to develop a sense of self-reflection as they take risks in a safe environment. They can experience a full range of emotions, including disappointment and frustration, as they figure out their limits and capabilities. They can learn to recognize their own feelings, as well as those of others. This enables them to form healthy relationships and understand the importance of preserving nature’s resources.


Children who regularly play outside may find it easier to engage in teamwork with their peers and process feelings of anger and frustration in a healthy way. They also become more comfortable playing in larger public spaces like community playgrounds and parks.

Playing outdoors allows kids to explore their environment without being influenced by adult expectations and rules. It helps them understand that the world around them is always changing; wind moving trees, sun shining on water, a squirrel scampering across a branch or birds singing. It’s this experience of the physical world that helps them develop a better understanding of the concept of sustainability which will help them later in life when they start to care for the environment.

During outdoor play, kids learn to wait their turn, communicate, cooperate and support each other during social interaction. They also learn to read their friends emotions; this will help them in developing healthy friendships as well as forming relationships with people of all backgrounds later on in life. This is because they’ll be able to empathise with people and understand how their actions affect them.

Communication skills

Playing outdoors offers kids a variety of cognitive advantages, enabling them to cultivate crucial capabilities such as focus and attention, problem-solving aptitudes and inventiveness. It also helps them to develop a sense of observational skills, making them more aware of their surroundings and what they can do with it.

It also enhances communication skills, as they learn how to interact with one another in an open space without distractions. They can practice taking turns, encouraging their peers and comforting unhappy friends, which will help them form healthy relationships in the future.

Physically, outdoor play can also help kids improve their balance and coordination. Activities like climbing, jumping and swinging help them to strengthen their muscles. These are the skills that will help them in later life, as they move into more structured jobs and activities. Children who play outside often have higher levels of physical fitness than those who do not play outside. They are also less likely to develop obesity in adolescence and adulthood. This is because they are more active than their indoor counterparts, which can increase their metabolism and lead to a healthier lifestyle.

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