Building Confidence and Creativity Through Outdoor Play

Girl playing with dolls in front of dollhouse

As parents, we’re always keeping tabs on our kids’ developmental milestones and looking for ways to support their growth. From snuggling up with a stack of library books to trips to the children’s museum, there are a ton of ways to support our little ones as they learn and grow. But one activity that stands out from the rest is outdoor play. Time in the outdoors not only provides new and exciting ways to play but also offers valuable opportunities for building confidence and fostering creativity. In this post, we’re diving into the benefits of outdoor play for our kids’ self-confidence and creativity and providing tips for maximizing your family’s outdoor playtime!

Benefits of Outdoor Play for Confidence

Open-ended, child-led outdoor play provides endless opportunities for children to boost their confidence levels. Why? Outdoor environments are never quite as predictable as indoor play spaces. From dealing with the weather to climbing trees, when kids play outside, they encounter new challenges and learn to overcome them. Whether it's finishing a hike, discovering a new-to-them plant or insect, or learning to ride a bike, each achievement builds their sense of confidence. Specifically, here are a few of the key ways outdoor play helps our kiddos feel competent and confident:

Physical Competence

Outdoor play is critical for helping kids develop gross motor skills, strength, and coordination. As our littles master activities like running and jumping, they gain confidence in their physical abilities and become more willing to try new things… like climbing, hanging, and somersaulting.

While babies and toddlers can get plenty of gross motor practice indoors as they learn to walk or try to get on the couch, the older kids get, the more they need outdoor spaces that let them move in a variety of ways. From wide open spaces that are perfect for sprinting to trees and playsets that are great for climbing, there truly is no replacement for the great outdoors when it comes to supporting your child’s physical development.

Risk Assessment

By now, you’ve probably heard about the benefits of risky play. And if you’re like most of us, you likely fall into one of two camps: you’re all in on risk-taking play…orrrr you shudder at the thought. If you’re in the latter camp, don’t worry. Letting your kids take risks doesn’t mean you leave them unsupervised or let them take inappropriate risks that could result in major injuries. Instead, it’s all about giving them the chance to assess situations and discover their own limits.

Outdoor play is one of the best ways we can offer these opportunities. When children engage in activities such as climbing or balancing, they learn to evaluate their abilities and make decisions based on their own judgment. This process enhances their problem-solving skills and self-confidence, and because they’re more aware of their own limits, they’re more likely to self-regulate and make safe choices as they gain more independence.


Speaking of independence…outdoor play is great for helping your child become a little more self-sufficient. As they venture into nature (with you nearby, of course) or engage in group play at the park, they learn to rely on themselves, make decisions, and solve problems independently. These experiences contribute to their sense of autonomy and confidence in their decision-making abilities.

Nurturing Creativity Through Outdoor Play

From enchanted forests to dragon lairs hidden deep in the mountains, our favorite fairy tales are nearly always set, at least in part, in nature. And there’s good reason for that! After all, it’s easier to believe in magic when we’re staring at the sun setting over the ocean or watching the fireflies light up the forest at dusk, right?

Without getting too sentimental here, we do want to drive home the point that nature helps grow our kids’ sense of beauty and wonder… and in the process inspires their creativity. Plus, the open-ended nature of outdoor environments provides endless possibilities for imaginative play and creative exploration. Here's how outdoor play stimulates creativity:

Natural Inspiration

The beauty of nature serves as an abundant source of inspiration for children (and adults too!) From observing plants and animals to discovering different textures and colors, the outdoor environment sparks their curiosity and encourages imaginative thinking. And don’t feel like you need to live in a National Geographic-worthy location to help your kids appreciate nature. Mountains and canyons are awesome, but to your kids, the dandelions and beetles in your own backyard are pretty cool too.

Role-Playing and Pretend Play

Remember what we said about fairytales? Chances are your kiddo already loves to engage in pretend play. Outdoor settings can help foster that creativity even more, inspiring new ways to role-play and pretend.

Sensory Stimulation

If making DIY sensory bins isn’t your thing, don’t worry – you can provide just as much sensory play simply by taking your kids outside! They can feel the wind, smell the fragrance of flowers, hear the chirping of birds, and touch various natural elements. This sensory stimulation enhances their cognitive development, their natural curiosity, and their imagination.

Tips for Maximizing Outdoor Play Experiences

While having the right outdoor play equipment is important, it's equally crucial to maximize the overall outdoor play experience. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your child's outdoor playtime:

Set Aside Regular Outdoor Play Time

Try to establish a routine that includes dedicated outdoor playtime. We know – easier said than done. But by making it a regular part of your kiddo’s schedule, you’ll ensure they get the outdoor time they need to play, expend energy, and explore. Take a look at your schedule and see if there’s room to cut back on screen time or even clubs and classes if your child is enrolled in several organized activities. And remember that something is always better than nothing – even 15-20 minutes in the backyard benefits your child!

Encourage Unstructured Play

Structured play, like organized sports or camps, has its place, but unstructured, child-led play is what really helps kids grow in independence and confidence. This type of play encourages them to follow their own interests, be creative, and develop problem-solving skills independently. So take a trip to the park and let your child make new friends, or try to find local playgroups that meet up specifically for child-led play.

Explore Natural Environments

Venture beyond the playground, and look up some local state or city parks, forests, nature trails, or beaches to explore the wonders of nature. These settings can be a nice change of pace from your usual park spots and may help your child discover new interests!

Join in the Fun

If you really want to include more outdoor play in your routine, it needs to be fun for you too! Join in and play chase, go for a bike ride, or have a picnic together. Your involvement not only strengthens your bond with your child but also encourages them to explore new activities with confidence.

Embrace Messy Play

Outdoor play often involves getting a little messy, and that's perfectly fine! Encourage activities like splashing in puddles, digging in the dirt, or playing with sand. These experiences provide sensory stimulation and allow children to explore their world freely.

Make Your Yard Play-friendly

Getting out the door with kids can be tough, so having outdoor play opportunities at home is super helpful for the days when an outing just isn’t going to happen. Try to include a few different play opportunities in your own backyard. Smaller outdoor toys like balls, hula hoops, jump ropes, and bug-catching kits are all great for encouraging active play and exploration. But if you’re hoping to truly transform your yard into an inviting, exciting playable paradise, you’ll want to add some larger, permanent structures like mud kitchens, sandboxes, swing sets, and playhouses. At KidKraft, we specialize in high-quality wooden outdoor toys that help your kids want to spend more time outside and encourage different types of play from active play to sensory play to imaginative play.

Outdoor play is a powerful tool for fostering our children’s development. By providing opportunities for outdoor play, you help spark your kiddos’ sense of wonder and curiosity, help them learn through rich experiences, and help their confidence and creativity flourish!

Start creating your backyard play space today, and shop KidKraft’s line of outdoor playsets, sandboxes, climbers, and more!