Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Preschoolers Need More Outdoor Play with Parents

Supervised outdoor play offers important advantages to kids and parents.

If you’re the parent of a young child, you probably already know many of the benefits of outdoor play. Not only does it help strengthen motor skills, prevent obesity, and support creativity, but playing outside even promotes mental health and well-being. What’s more, outdoor play lets our little ones expend some of that seemingly endless energy. It’s all good.

Yet, according to researchers at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, many preschoolers are missing opportunities for supervised outdoor play. In a sample of almost 9,000 children, it was reported that about half of preschoolers are not being taken outside to play daily by either of their parents. Study results were recently published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Because young children require adult supervision, it is necessary for at least one parent or caregiver to accompany preschoolers outdoors for play. Yet, adults aren’t taking their kids outside as much as they could, or should. The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear. In this particular study, researchers did not find a significant association between the frequency of outdoor play and the amount of children’s television viewing, parent perceptions of neighborhood safety, household income, or mother’s marital status. It was noted, though, that young boys tend to have more opportunities to enjoy outdoor play than girls, and that parents who exercise regularly are more likely to take their kids outside.

Advantages of parent-child outdoor play

Supervised outdoor play offers important benefits for children and parents alike. In addition to the physical and mental health benefits for young kids, it encourages parents to be more active. When parents and children regularly play outside, they are more likely to develop healthy habits that promote physical fitness. And perhaps best of all, when parents and children play together, relationships are enhanced and family bonds are strengthened.

So what can you do to make a positive difference in the life of your little guy or girl? Make a commitment to enjoy frequent opportunities for fresh air and outdoor play together.

Ready, set, go

Here are some suggestions for outdoor play that are fun and easy to do in your own neighborhood, and don’t require a lot of time or expense:

Walk the dog.

Collect leaves or rocks.

Play “Simon Says.”

Have a catch.

Jump rope.

Take a nature walk.

Kick a soccer ball.

Hula hoop.

Bring some music outdoors and have a freeze dance.

Play hopscotch.

Wash the car together.

For more family-friendly outdoor ideas and information, visit: or

Want to stay informed about all the latest parenting news and research? Follow me on Twitter.