3 Evidence-Based Reasons Why Spending Time Outdoors Helps Children’s Vision

3 Evidence-Based Reasons Why Spending Time Outdoors Helps Children's Vision3 Evidence-Based Reasons Why Spending Time Outdoors Helps Children’s Vision

Did you know that children aged 10 to 16 now spend only 12.6 minutes a day on vigorous outdoor activity compared with 10.4 waking hours being relatively sedentary?  Or what about the fact that almost 50% of preschoolers do not experience even one parent-supervised outdoor play session per day?  Children are spending more time indoors than previous generations for sure.  Obviously, there are numerous benefits to outdoor time for children but did you know that more outdoor time has been shown to help a child’s vision?  Here are 3 evidence-based reasons why spending time outdoors helps children’s vision.

>  More time spent outdoors and less time indoors doing near work may slow axial elongation and prevent high myopia thereby reducing the risk of developing sight-threatening conditions such as retinal detachment and myopic retinopathy (Gwiazda et al, 2014)

>  More time outside may decrease myopia progression. Less outdoor/sports activity before myopia onset may exert a stronger influence on the development of myopia than near work. (Jones-Jordan et al, 2011)

>  Higher levels of outdoor activity were associated with lower amounts of myopia in primary school students. (Lin et al, 2014).

Educate parents and children are the multiple benefits of outdoor time!  When the weather allows there are many simple changes you can make to increase outdoor time.  Here are 8 suggestions:

  1. Increase recess time.
  2. Bring learning opportunities outside such as handwriting practice – watch a video on suggestions for outdoor handwriting practice.
  3. Provide children and parents with easy ideas for outdoor time – try hanging up this Play Outdoors Tear Off Sheet.  
  4. Go on a Scavenger Hunt – ask your child to find three things in the yard such as brown leaf, green leaf, and white rock and bring in back within one minute.  Check out Scavenger Hunts for more ideas.
  5. Green Hunt – cut up green construction paper into one inch by 8-inch strips. Hide the green paper strips in the grass. The child must find all the strips that you have hidden.
  6. Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles – practice blowing bubbles and chasing them. Blow bubbles, catch it on wand and child can clap or kick the bubble to pop it.
  7. Sidewalk Chalk Games – Hopscotch is always a great physical activity to practice jumping, bilateral coordination, and motor planning. Draw long, twisty lines with the chalk and child can try to walk on the line without stepping off.  Sidewalk Chalk Fun and Games includes 30 games for outdoor fun!
  8. Ball games – play catch with different sized balls, beach balls or even better water balloons. Practice dribbling a ball with your feet – use a beach ball or balloon for easier control to start.  Read more on teaching children how to throw, catch and kick.


AOA Evidence-Based Optometry Guideline Development Group. Comprehensive pediatric eye and vision examination. St. Louis (MO): American Optometric Association (AOA); 2017. 67 p. [251 references]

Gwiazda J, Deng L, Manny R, Norton TT, COMET Study Group. Seasonal variations in the progression of myopia in children enrolled in the correction of myopia evaluation trial. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014 Feb 04;55(2):752-8.

Jones-Jordan LA, Mitchell GL, Cotter SA, Kleinstein RN, Manny RE, Mutti DO, Twelker JD, Sims JR, Zadnik K, CLEERE Study Group. Visual activity before and after the onset of juvenile myopia. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2011 Mar;52(3):1841-50.

Kennedy, R. Children Spend Half the Time Playing Outside Compared to their Parents. Retrieved on 3/29/18 from https://www.childinthecity.org/2018/01/15/children-spend-half-the-time-playing-outside-in-comparison-to-their-parents/

Lin Z, Vasudevan B, Jhanji V, Mao GY, Gao TY, Wang FH, Rong SS, Ciuffreda KJ, Liang YB. Near work, outdoor activity, and their association with refractive error. Optom Vis Sci. 2014 Apr;91(4):376-82.

3 Evidence-Based Reasons Why Spending Time Outdoors Helps Children's Vision