Rachel Mills
May 29, 2023

Ways to spend more time outdoors

Time spent playing outside has declined by 50% in a generation. We share some tips to spend more time outdoors with your children.

With better weather, it’s a great opportunity to spend more time outside, relaxing and enjoying nature together.

For many families, getting outdoors might mean days out, or holidays, but it doesn’t have to involve such big investments of time or money. Sometimes the simplest of ideas can have the biggest impact.

Children playing outdoors. Photo by Stefa Nikolic on Getty Images Signature via canva.

How can families combine time outdoors with everyday life?

Eat outside

Child eating corn on the cob outside. Photo by Fertnig on Getty Images Signature.

Everyone needs to eat, so having meals in the garden during Spring and Summer, is a great way to enjoy family time outdoors. It can increase your Vitamin D and lead to more relaxed conversations, away from the distractions of TV and phones.

Do the gardening together

A family gardening together. Photo by Halfpoint on Canva.

Encourage your children to get involved with supervised gardening activities. You can be educating your children about nature and healthy eating, while spending time together outdoors. Go with what your child is interested in and enjoys doing. They may like to dig the garden and plant seeds, or they may like the responsibility of watering the garden every day, throughout the Summer. Planting fruit or vegetables with them, that they can eat later, gives added purpose and can help them to feel even more proud of their achievements.

National Children’s Gardening Week is taking place from 27th May to 4th June. You can find out more about the competitions and the events being held around the country at the following website:

Travel on foot or by bike

Family cycling together. Photo by Monkey Business Images , via Canva.

Walk or cycle to the local shop or to school, instead of driving. It’s good for exercise, better for the environment and helps with road safety awareness. This year, Bike Week is being held from June 5th to June 11th and it marks the 100th anniversary of the annual Bike Week. There may be activities going on in your local area. Find out more from the website:

Primary schools often hold Bikeability training sessions to help to teach pupils practical skills and how to cycle safely on the roads, but if your children are home-schooled, or you would like to attend additional sessions, you can find out more at:


Why is the reduction of children’s outdoor play a national cause for concern?

The National trust has said that in the UK, ‘time spent playing outside has
declined by 50% in a generation’

For many children, outdoor play has been replaced by structured, indoor play activities, or time at soft play centres. While this meets some developmental needs, such as social interaction and exploring movement, it lacks many of the opportunities for outdoor exploration, such as learning about experimentation in a risk-free way and exposure to nature and the elements.

The RPA (Real Play Coalition) stated, “Despite its vital importance in a person’s early developmental journey, children’s time and space for play is squeezed. Lives are increasingly pressured and over-scheduled as rapid urbanisation and disruptive technologies reshape the way we live and work.”

What are the benefits of outdoor play for children?

  • It boosts immunity‘According to recent research, the dirt outside is teaming with friendly microorganisms that can train the immune system and build resilience to a range of illnesses, including allergies, asthma and even depression and anxiety.’ (BBC.com)
  • It’s beneficial for fitness – children can run around more safely in larger areas, than they can indoors
  • Active children are more likely to become healthy adults – if children develop healthy habits at an early age, they are more likely to continue to look after their health and wellbeing into adulthood
  • It’s good for family bonding Adults have more space outdoors to run around and have fun with their children
  • It helps with language development Children are likely to ask the names of the things that they see, which will, in turn, generate more conversations. If you can’t answer some of their questions, try finding out together.
  • It’s fun! Have you seen the delight on a child’s face and the awe and wonder, as they jump in puddles in their wellies and waterproofs, kick up the Autumn leaves, watch snowflakes falling all around them, or spot a butterfly, a squirrel or a bird in the garden?

A CBeebies article states, ‘Research shows that children use five times as many words when they play outdoors compared to indoors and that there’s a direct correlation between obesity and lack of time spent outside. There really is nothing like the freedom of playing outdoors to improve children’s physical and sensory development and their imaginations, not to mention the fun factor!’

Outdoor play can be adult-led or child-led. Both have different benefits and it’s great to have a mix of the two.

Adult-led activities may include:

  • Building a den in the woods and playing at being bears
  • Having a teddy bears’ picnic in the garden
  • Taking paper and crayons (or even paints) outside, to capture, in their own way, what they can see
  • Going on a scavenger hunt, to tick off items on a list
  • Kicking a ball around the park
  • Playing at the playground

Child-led activities can involve doing anything your child wants to do! (Safety permitting, of course!) Go with the flow and release your own inner child – it’s a wonderful way to get on your child’s level, to interact together and to make new memories.


‘New report highlights the importance of outdoor play’ by Jonathan Manning, published 7th January 2019

‘How mud boosts your immune system’ by Alessia Franco and David Robson, 11th October 2022

‘Evidence for and reports on the benefits to children of outdoor play’

‘Why should children play outside?’ CBeebies (BBC)

We hope you found this article informative! 

Head to our blog for more tips for sustainable and nature connected living.

The Buttercup Team

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