Playing sports and spending time outdoors is an important part of healthy development for kids. Though not every child will want to participate in an organized sports team, parents and teachers should make an effort to ensure children take part in physical activities and explore the outdoors.

Whether this means joining a softball or soccer team, spending a few weeks at summer camp, or just engaging in free play during recess will vary from child to child. The important thing is that a child reaps the benefits of sports and outdoor activities during his or her childhood.

Teamwork and Trust

One advantage of participating in team sports is learning about teamwork and building trust with your teammates. Sports teams are a great way for kids to interact with their peers and learn valuable social skills that can later be used in school and work.

Guidance from a coach is also beneficial, especially for children who lack exposure to strong adult role models in other areas of their lives.

Physical Fitness

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of participating in sports and outdoor play is physical fitness. Outdoor activities engage large motor function and help with physical coordination. Not only do kids benefit in the present, they also learn an appreciation for fitness that carries into later life.

One of the best ways to appreciate fitness is to make a connection early in life between how your body feels when it is active and in the best shape possible. Participation in sports is a fun way to incorporate fitness at an early age.

Confidence and Facing Challenge

There are also emotional benefits for kids who participate in sports and spend time outdoors. They experience challenges that help them develop confidence and learn about the world. They are taught to deal with winning and losing and how to do both with grace. Not only that, their confidence is boosted as they push the boundaries of their capabilities.

Participation in sports and outdoor activities provide kids with an opportunity to learn about their talents. They might not do well with some things, and that is OK, but they also learn about their natural talents and where they excel.

Further research from the National Institutes of Health has shown a direct link between self-esteem and participation in sports. There is also evidence linking obesity and excessive television viewing time with lower self-esteem. Participating in sports and playing outdoors is a great way to help a child get into better shape and enjoy time away from the TV.

Academic and Intellectual Benefits

Research has shown that children who participate in sports benefit intellectually and perform better in school. Studies show exercise programs enhance development of specific mental processes. Sports help many children deal with challenges during their school years and later in life.

Appreciation for Nature

Finally, spending time outdoors, whether in organized sports or general free play, teaches children about the value of nature. Kids who spend time outdoors generally develop a greater appreciation for being outside.

In addition to large motor skill development, confidence, and social and academic skills, sports and outdoor activities help kids learn to love the natural world around them.