How Much Outdoor Play Time Does Your Child Need? What the Experts Say

Many parents are aware their kids are spending too much time indoors watching TV and playing video and computer games.  A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average eight to eighteen year old kid is now spending an alarming 7 hours and 38 minutes of electronic screen time per day.  This leaves very little time for old fashioned outdoor play, creating games with friends and learning to experience and appreciate nature.

Parents surely know that more outdoor play time will help to balance out a child’s day and offer them mental and physical health benefits but how much is enough?  Here are some useful guidelines offered by the experts:

  • The Centers for Disease Control advises parents to encourage their children to have an hour per day of moderate physical activity to burn calories, tone the muscles and keep their weight under control.  Outdoor play time is ideal for this.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get enough exercise and also have an hour per day to unwind, relax and have some simple creative play time.  Our kids are busy these days and getting some time for simple creative play is good for their growth, mental health and social development.  What better way is there to reach this goal then to engage in outdoor play?
  • Researchers at the University of Illinois have determined that 30 minutes of time in a park setting will help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to be able to concentrate in the classroom and act more calmly and with more focus at home.  Outdoor time in natural settings is not a cure for ADHD but it is good to know that there is some simple help for a problem affecting the lives of millions of U.S. children.
  • The Mayo Clinic recognizes how hard it is to find larger blocks of free time and recommends that children (and adults) who are unable to find 30 minutes to an hour of daily time for physical activity try to find some 10 minute “chunks” during the day to be active.
  • American school officials recognize that it is best for children to have 30 minutes per day of recess time and new findings indicate there are real benefits in concentration, nutrition and academics by having recess time prior to lunch.   We suggest making those schoolyards greener with trees, vegetation and school gardens including NWF schoolyard wildlife habitats.
  • The National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There Campaign recognizes how important it is for children to stay connected to nature and to have an appreciation for outdoor conservation and recommends that parents aim for a daily “Green Hour” of outdoor activity in natural settings even if they are in a backyard, a schoolyard, or a tree-lined street.
  • Cornell University found that children who spend significant amounts of time immersed in nature and the outdoors such as camping, hiking, or other nature activities in their younger years are more incline to be conservationists or at least be conservation-minded as adults.

Bottom line: 30 to 60 minutes of outdoor play time per day but even 10 minute “chunks” are a good idea.

Vist NWF’s Be Out There – Green Hour Activities Page for terrific outdoor time ideas for kids and families!