Myths of Outside Play

There are myths and stories associated with outdoor play, some of which may limit how we play with our child. ; most unfounded. The benefits that children get from engaging in play in an outdoor environment are many and thus it is important to not let myths or stories get in our way.

Myth - my child will get injured

Injuries can and will occur during play, but most injuries associated with risky play and outdoor play are minor bumps, bruises and scrapes. Anytime children are active and pushing their limits there’s a chance of an injury.  In fact, children are more likely to get hurt playing organized sports than engaged in outside free play. Broken bones and head injuries can happen but more  serious injuries are rare. Recent estimates show that children would need to spend about three hours a day every day for 10 years (11,000 hours!) before they are likely to get an injury that needs treatment.  In most cases when injuries do occur they are considered minor injuries and can be managed by simple first aid.

Myth - my child will get sick

People often associate the cold air with catching a cold. This statement is untrue, with the real reason being that people spend prolonged periods of time in an indoor environment where someone else may have an illness. Warmer weather is therefore associated with not being sick, but that is because more time is spent outside or in a room with open windows.

Another factor in outdoor play is the risk of your child getting mud, dirt and sand in their mouth. Fortunately, the small quantities that may enter the mouth while a child is playing will not be a health risk. In fact, research1 suggests that exposure to different germs and/or bacteria in dirt may actually improve your child’s immune system by exposing them to additional germs. It is important, however, to know the area that your child is playing in, and ensure that there are no animal feces in close proximity.

Children love playing outside, and the developmental benefits of engaging with different textures, environments and objects are important and may outweigh any risk of illness or injury. Understanding that many of the concerns parents have for their child when playing outside are untrue can open up more opportunities to explore, be curious and have fun!

1.Thompson, H. Early exposure to germs has lasting benefits. Nature (2012).