The Importance Of Outdoor Play In Early Childhood Education

It’s important for young children to be able to spend time outdoors engaged in play and learning activities. Being outside and interacting with the natural environment provides benefits to all areas of a child’s development, physical, mental, and social. Enjoying fresh air in the sunshine, or splashing through puddles on a rainy day are an essential part of the intrinsic joy of childhood, and those experiences should be encouraged and fostered by parents and educators.

Outdoor Play

Educational institutions are becoming more and more aware of the critical role the outdoors plays as an early childhood learning environment, and more effort than ever before is being made to ensure every child spends a meaningful part of their school day out in the playground, or better yet, interacting with a natural environment like the forest or shoreline. Let’s explore some more reasons why exploring the outside world is so beneficial to early childhood development:

Physical Health And Exercise – Now more than ever young children are being drawn into the artificial world of television, the internet, and computer games, and there is a danger that too much time spent in these virtual spaces will have a detrimental effect on their development. Children who spend more time playing outdoors are much less likely to suffer from health issues related to obesity and have more powerful immune systems built up. Basic activities found in outdoor children’s games like running, jumping, and climbing build healthy muscles, increase cardiovascular health, and improve coordination and balance. The children who regularly engage in outdoor activities in early childhood tend to carry the positive benefits with them into later life, becoming more physically fit and active adults who maintain healthy lifestyles throughout the years.

The Development Of Important Social Skills – Outdoor play provides young children with excellent opportunities for social development and relationship building. When playing in public spaces like parks children are able to meet new friends and be exposed to a wider variety of people that might be different from them, teaching them an acceptance of diversity that will serve them well in their later social and business lives. Communication skills are naturally Increased as new games are learned and played with new friends, fostering a greater awareness of the needs and feelings of others as they interact in a positive, inclusive, and safe environment. Peer communication is honed and relationships are cultivated in an unforced way that is difficult to match in more regimented indoor locations.

Creativity – The outdoor environment is the perfect place for children to explore their innate sense of creativity, providing a wealth of opportunities for engaging in imaginative games and play. A hedge becomes a castle wall, and fairies lurk under that pile of leaves, with the whole world providing fuel for adventure! This wellspring of imagination coupled with a love of nature results in inquisitive, thoughtful children who love to experience new things!

The Australian Institute of Family Studies promotes the engagement of young children in outdoor play and exposure to natural environments, more information can be found on their website. In closing, it’s incumbent on us adults to make sure our young children can benefit from outdoor play, so go outside and have some fun!

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