With warmer weather and longer days, it’s time to get your family active. Beginning in infancy, regular physical activity improves a child’s health and well-being, and establishes a healthy habit for life.

While exercise is great for everyone in the family, it is crucial for a young child’s developing body and mind. Experts advise that young children be active an hour a day, and research shows that youth who get exercise do better in school and have less risk of heart trouble later in life.

Regular, unstructured play time in nature also makes kids smarter, calmer, more self-disciplined, more cooperative and happier, according to several studies.

Through physical play, young children discover the things their bodies can do. And as they increase their skills of running, climbing and throwing, children gain confidence in themselves and become more motivated to try new things. Playing outside is one of the best ways to boost self-esteem in young children.

Outdoor play tips for parents:

  • * Parents possess a powerful ability to model healthy outdoor behaviors. Skip the gym in favor of an hourlong walk with your kids. Choose daycare that makes outdoor time a priority.
  • * Sandboxes offer a favorite outdoor activity for children because they enjoy exploring how the sand feels and how it moves. Older children learn to use their fine motor skills to dig, bury, and build.
  • * Today even preschoolers spend many hours indoors using electronic toys. Reverse that trend in your home with a rule that every hour of screen time be balanced by at least one hour outdoors–and stick to it.
  • * Some kids who aren’t very familiar with unscripted play are more likely to think the natural world is boring compared to TV. Take a walk after the rain and point out how precipitation changes the environment. Teach them how things grow (preschoolers may not realize plants and trees are alive) and offer tools such as a ball or a magnifying glass to encourage creative outdoor play.

First 5 LA is committed to helping babies, toddlers, preschoolers and parents “Get Out and Play” this summer. Remember, it is never too late–or too early–to improve health and have a great time with exercise. For tips, activities and resources on staying active, visit ReadySetGrowLA.org, First 5 LA’s website for parents.