Outside Time: Friend or Foe?

two children walking in the leaves in the woods

I have one question to ask: As an early education teacher, do you see outside time as a friend or foe? Wrangling coats, hats, gloves, and other articles of clothing for winter outdoor play takes half of the scheduled time to be outside, so why do this arduous task for such little return? Is outside time just to break up the monotony of the classroom schedule? Obviously, this is not the reason. Let’s explore the benefits for children and teachers beyond breaking the daily monotony.

In a report issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines, a minimum of one hour of activity is recommended for children ages 6-17 daily. The recommendation for preschoolers is to have moderate to vigorous activities throughout the day. In Indiana, regulations for childcare centers state that there must be daily opportunities for children to use:

  • large motor skills
  • learn about outdoor environments and
  • express themselves freely and loudly


From my experience in developing daily schedules for childcare centers, those outside times are usually scheduled during the morning and afternoon for at least 20-minute sessions. Psychology professor Charles Hillman from Northeastern University has found evidence that children who run and play for seventy minutes a day exhibit better cognitive skills than those children who do not have this opportunity. How does large motor activity increase cognitive ability? The answer is that movement allows for more blood flow which delivers more oxygen to the brain. This feeds the brain tissue.

The feeding of the brain tissue improves brain function which leads to better cognitive ability. According to research done by the University of North Texas in 2014, researchers found that physical activity among children lead to higher scores on reading and math tests. Now in the early childhood realm, there is more emphasis placed on assessments, STEM curriculum, and hands-on learning. These lead to desired outcomes for future success in school.

Outside’s Benefits

Time outside allows children to run, be loud, curious, and to become more imaginative. The ability to daydream, pretend, and explore, as well as use all of their senses, provides a boost to learning. Recent studies have shown that daydreaming is a marker of intelligence and a conduit to expand creativity. Children learn faster and retain information longer once they return to the classroom after having physical activity.

The benefits of outdoor play effect the whole preschool age child. The benefits address the social, physical, and emotional needs of the child as well as improve language and cognitive skills. When children are running, screaming, and pretending, they are learning. As a teacher assisting those preschool children with what may feel like dreaded outside time, remember that this time is definitely your friend.

Want to get kids moving outside? The Adventurous Child Stepping Stumps allow children to run, jump, and play all while developing balance and agility.

Stepping Stumps

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We strive to create fun and informative content that will help young children learn and grow. However, it's important to keep in mind that all activities should be performed under the supervision of an adult. The Adventurous Child website is intended to serve as a reference and guidance for educational activities, and it is ultimately the responsibility of the parent, guardian, and/or educator to determine the appropriateness of the activity for their child’s age and maturity level. Thank you for your understanding and support!