Take It Outside

Take It Outside

In this lesson, we will discuss the importance of outdoor time and outdoor play for children. Many of us remember the phrase, "Go outside and play!" from childhood, but children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation. Encouraging children to get outside, get moving, and connect with the natural world all ways to reverse childhood obesity rates. But the benefits don't stop there. Kids who play outside are happier, healthier, and stronger.

This Take It Outside lesson is an adaptation from the I Am Moving, I Am Learning: A Proactive Approach to for Addressing Childhood Obesity in Headstart Children resources. This compilation for resources was originally developed by Office of Headstart, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services, through Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play. HSBS is administered by the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR) and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), which are sister-organizations for physical educators of all kinds. For more information, go to their website.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2010-48869-20781, using funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Approximate Length: 1 hour

Authors: Leslie Crandall, MS & Gail Brand
Extension Educators
University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The following resources helps to expand your knowledge and understanding of how to support children’s outdoor play and activities.

  • Let's Move: America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. Launched by First Lady, Michelle Obama, this national imitative is dedicated to solving the issue of obesity, starting with an youngest generation.
  • NAEYC Quality Outdoor Play Spaces for Young Children: Specific document to address the criteria for outdoor play spaces that provide opportunities for physical activity and learning.
  • I Am Movine, I Am Learning: This proactive approach, first developed by Head Start, by supporting the need to increase physical activity in young children.
  • Early Childhood Training Center: Part of the Nebraska Department of Education’s Office of Early Childhood and provides state leadership for Nebraska’s early childhood professional development system.

FEATURED RESOURCE: TLC Ask An Expert with Dr. Dipti Dev

About the Expert: Dr. Dev is an Assistant Professor and Child Health Behaviors Extension Specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research focuses on improving adult caregivers (parents and child care providers) feeding practices for preschool children (2-5 years) in their care. The goal of this research is to help children develop long-term healthful eating behaviors and prevent childhood obesity.

References for Take It Outside

  • Anderson, S.E., & R.C. Whitaker. 2009. “Prevalence of Obesity Among US Preschool Children in Different Racial and Ethnic Groups.” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 163 (4): 344–48.
  • Burdette, H.L., & R.C. Whitaker. 2005. “Resurrecting Free Play iYoung Children: Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect.” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 159: 46–50. www.childrenandnature.org/downloads/Burdette_ LookingBeyond.pdf.
  • Brown, W.H., K.A. Pfeiffer, K.L. McIver, M. Dowda, C.L. Addy, & R.R. Pate. 2009. “Social and Environmental Factors Associated With Preschoolers’ Nonsedentary Physical Activity.” Child Development 80 (1): 45–58. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2648129.
  • Fjørtoft, I. 2004. “Landscape as Playscape: The Effects of Natural Environments on Children’s Play and Motor Development.” Children, Youth and Environments 14 (2): 21-44. www.stichtingoase.nl/literatuur/doc/doc_76.pdf.
  • The Nielsen Company (2009). TV viewing among kids at an eight-year high. Retrieved July 19, 2010 from blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/tv-viewing-among-kids-at-an-eight-year-high.
  • Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, 2nd Ed.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension publications offer peer-reviewed, research based information in a range of topics including early childhood education. Written by specialists, faculty and educators at UNL, check out the following early childhood educational publications:
Play and Learning in the Primary Years.

Children ages 3-8 need opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of academic concepts through play. Children’s play needs to be encouraged as an essential part of their healthy development. A wide variety of play experiences is necessary to develop a complex and integrated brain.

The Importance of Outdoor Experiences in the Primary Years.

Daily experiences in natural environments can have immediate and long-lasting benefits for children. Increased physical activity is associated with decreases in depression and anxiety and increases in levels of concentration. It also is a key strategy in addressing childhood obesity.

Interactive Publications
Interactive Publications allow you to engage in interactive learning activities while you click and read!
Keeping Children Moving, Active and Healthy.

Fun, interactive, and simple ways parents and caregivers can encourage children from birth to age 8 be more active