It goes without saying that children love playing outdoors within natural environments. The more research that goes into outdoor play, the more we understand that this is no accident. As humans, we are designed to have an affinity with the outdoors not just because it is beautiful, but more importantly because it has a significant impact on our development in the early years.
Research shows us that many of the fundamental tasks that children must achieve, such as exploring, risk-taking, fine and gross motor development and the absorption of vast amounts of basic knowledge, can be most effectively learned through outdoor play.
For example, when children move over, under, through, beside, and near objects and others, the child better grasps the meaning of these prepositions and geometry concepts. When children are given the opportunity to physically demonstrate action words such as stomp, pounce, stalk, or slither, or descriptive words such as smooth, strong, gentle, or enormous, word comprehension is immediate and long lasting. The words are used and learned in context, as opposed to being a mere collection of letters. This is what promotes emergent literacy and a love of language. Similarly, if children take on high, low, wide, and narrow body shapes, they’ll have a much greater understanding of these quantitative concepts, than children who are just presented with the words and definitions. Learning by doing creates more neural networks in the brain and throughout the body, making the entire body a tool for learning. All of these skills and understandings can often be better learnt in an outdoor environment.
In addition, spending time outdoors might lower your child’s chances of being short-sighted. And a bit of safe play in the sun can be good too – small amounts of sunlight exposure helps boost vitamin D levels. Also the best way to reduce the spread of infection when kids are unwell is through plenty of fresh air. Outdoor play enables the infectious agents to spread out and be dissipated; it also enables children to get fresh air and exercise and be less constrained than they are in the indoors. Outdoor winter play has long been blamed for colds and flu. Our parents told us “Bundle up or you’ll catch a cold” and their parents probably told them the same thing. But winter play gets a bad rap. Although going outside unprepared for the elements is unwise, viruses that are spread by other human beings cause colds and flu—indoors.
The indoor circulation of germs and bacteria is much more harmful to your child than playing outside. With the right preparation and understanding of winter weather, your child can have as much fun in the cold as he or she does in the sun!
At our centres we place a huge amount of importance on constantly evolving our outdoor spaces to encourage imaginative and developmentally effective play. You’ll find spaces that allow children to freely travel through large open doors into large outdoor spaces that encourage children to explore and create in a way only natural outdoor spaces can. In one visit alone, children have the opportunity to dig, climb, pour water, build, plant, hide, play alone or in groups, join in outdoor yoga or read quietly. The spaces are reflected upon by educators who listen to the children’s interests and ideas and create environments to enhance learning, cooperation and language development. The possibilities are endless and we value how fortunate we are to be able to provide such an outstanding learning environment in a city short of space.
We have large outdoor undercover areas at our centres so play in open air is still available in wet weather. We also have weather appropriate clothing for both the staff and children to ensure everyone can get out into the rain and learn through play. Rain is a wonderful, scientific and rich sensory learning experience which children get very excited about. Our outdoor sheds allow children to choose their vessels and tools for water collection and pouring.
For more information about outdoor play or the approach to early education that we take at Everlearn feel free to give us a call and visit our centres.
The Importance of Outdoor Play and Its Impact on Brain Development In Children – UMKC School of Education’s Edgar L. and Rheta A. Berkley
Outdoor play is a big part of healthy growth, learning, development and wellbeing for your child – Raising Children’s Network