The importance of outdoor play in early childhood education is a well-researched area of child development.
By combining learning and play, students have an entertaining and engaging environment that encourages learning.
When used with resources like Children Learning Reading, you can significantly improve students’ learned knowledge.
What Is Outdoor Play in Early Childhood Education?
Outdoor play is something that all children are familiar with, especially during their free time.
Whether it’s playing street hockey with friends or visiting the beach with family, outdoor activities are bountiful.
When used in early childhood education, teachers and parents can transform a regular fun outing into a learning experience.
In ECE, children exposed to outdoor play naturally enhance their communication skills, spatial recognition, motor skills, and more.
As they participate in outdoor activities, they’re refining many fundamental skills required for appropriate development.
You might find students have specific sensory activities to complete or team-building exercises to do with their peers.
The outdoors provides many opportunities for more advanced learning as well.
For example, nature walks teach students about vegetation and wildlife in their immediate area.
It can also be a fantastic starting point for discussing weather, ecosystems, and geography.
There are numerous reasons early childhood educators need to implement outdoor play.
Also, parents should consider spending more time outdoors with their children for at-home learning.
When combined with teaching resources like Children Learning Reading, students can experience numerous benefits.
What Is Children Learning Reading?
Children Learning Reading is an adaptable resource specifically designed to help parents become better educators.
It’s a unique program with 50 step-by-step lessons to help students build fundamental and advanced reading skills.
What we love the most about the program is how versatile it is, perfect for outdoor learning.
All of the content is available digitally, making it easy to download onto a tablet or laptop.
You can easily teach students essential reading skills and techniques anywhere with ease.
By implementing this intuitive guide, you can ensure children gain the skills and confidence to meet their full potential.
The guide focuses on the most important concepts of reading, including:
- Phonemic awareness
- Sentence structure
We highly recommend using it along with engaging outdoor activities to help learners reach reading milestones.
Popular Outdoor Activities for Early Childhood Education
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite outdoor activities to help reinforce learning outdoors.
Color Scavenger Hunt
Traditional scavenger hunts can be a fantastic learning experience on their own.
Students will have a list of items they need to find and collect said items as quickly as possible to win the contest.
However, to make it simpler for younger students, we recommend making a color scavenger hunt.
With this activity, children will have a list of colors, and they will need to find items in nature that match the colors.
For example, if they have green on their list, they can collect leaves.
You can opt to give each student their own unique list of break participants off into groups to work with their peers.
Nature Name Writing
By the time children are in school, they should have a clear idea of how to say and spell their names.
With the nature name writing activity, they can use items in nature to spell their names.
For example, using twigs to construct an “N” or blades of grass to make an “A“.
If you want to make the task more challenging, have students use a different natural item for each letter.
Listening Nature Walk
Nature walks are a fantastic way for children, parents, and teachers to become one with nature.
You can also make it a fantastic learning activity that boosts attention and listening skills.
Instead of finding items in a park or forest, have your children listen to the sounds all around them.
Let each person make a list of things they hear that they would read at the end of the walk.
Instruct the children to be as descriptive as possible with their sounds, helping to improve vocabulary.
You can even take the task a step further by asking them questions about the sounds, making them easier to identify.
You’ll want to see phrases like, “Branches swaying in the wind” or “Birds chirping happily“.
Senses and Nature
There are plenty of sensory activities to be held outdoors, but this is one of our favorites.
Students will need to use their thinking caps to identify hidden objects with the senses and nature activity.
The first step of the task is to have parents fill a bag with items found outdoors, such as grass, leaves, or pine cones.
Next, children will put their hands into the bag (without looking) and feel all the items.
They have to name all of the objects in the bag based on their texture, size, and even smell.
Why Is Outdoor Play Important in Early Childhood?
Understanding the benefits of outdoor play for children’s development is the first step to providing kids with new experiences.
There are several social, mental, and physical benefits children can experience by playing and learning outdoors.
The most notable benefits include:
There’s no doubt playing outdoors will bring several benefits to the table.
Not only does it encourage physical activity, but it also exposes children to vitamin D, fresh air, and a sense of freedom.
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends up to 60 minutes of physical activity for children daily.
Let’s explore some of the most remarkable physical benefits of outdoor play.
Enhancing Motor Skills
As children play, they will encounter stimulation designed to improve their motor skills and endurance.
By running, walking, and playing with toys, children can improve their balance, hand-eye coordination, and strength.
While they have an engaging time outdoors, they’ll be building key muscles required for healthy development.
Maintaining Healthy Weights
There’s no doubt that there’s an influx of indoor-only activities on the market, including video games and apps.
Kid-friendly games are specifically designed to pull the player in to keep them engaged, which can be detrimental over time.
By encouraging outdoor play, children can avoid morbid obesity by burning calories through physical activity.
Childhood obesity is becoming more of a prevalent concern across North America and contributes to serious health concerns.
To improve the overall quality of life your children experience, exposing them to outdoor play is essential.
Building Stronger Immunity
Children who are unable to have access to the outdoors are more likely to experience illnesses over time.
By exposing children to sunlight, their bodies will absorb vitamin D, an essential component of their immune system.
Also, nature can expose them to germs that allow their bodies to fight against more serious illnesses.
The more access children have to natural elements, the healthier their bodies become over time.
Also, they’re less likely to experience natural immunity deficiencies at an older age.
Children who play outdoors will be expending a lot of energy in a short time.
Without outdoor play, kids can experience excessive energy at the most inconvenient times, such as before bed.
By providing them with an outlet for their jitters, their bodies will find it easier to regulate their sleep cycles.
Also, physical activity can reduce the effects of stress, which can also negatively affect sleep.
Outdoor play is essential to encourage children to get up to 12 hours of sleep nightly.
Stimulating the Senses
Exposing children to nature is a fantastic way to help develop and reinforce their senses.
There’s no doubt that the outdoors has plenty of things they can touch, see, hear, and smell.
As children play outside, they can experience all of the unique ways the world changes and adapts.
In summer, they can feel the warmth of the sun and hear the twittering of birds as they fly from tree to tree.
In winter, there’s the ability to learn about snow’s coldness and how it can sparkle in the sun.
Every time children go outdoors, they get exposed to a new sensory adventure waiting to be explored.
When asking, “What is the importance of play in early childhood education?“, the social benefits can’t be understated.
Socialization is one of the key elements to growth, especially when dealing with one’s peers.
By encouraging daily outdoor group activities, children build several skills, including:
Improving Social Skills
Making and keeping friends throughout childhood is important for many reasons.
Primarily, it helps children understand that they have a support system outside of the home.
Also, it helps them establish cooperation, conversational skills, and listening skills.
Kids must have access to new groups of peers so they can learn and engage with others.
Otherwise, socialization at an older age can become significantly more challenging.
The world we live in is unique in that there are hundreds of cultures to be exposed to.
Without this type of exposure, children become sheltered and unable to participate in society actively.
Social situations with their peers can help them meet new people they otherwise wouldn’t come across.
They’ll learn about different races, backgrounds, personalities, morals, and viewpoints.
When learning in a fun outdoor location, they can learn to appreciate and accept the differences between themselves and others.
Being exposed to diverse classrooms is essential for having fundamental skills for interacting with the world.
When children play outside, there are plenty of opportunities for them to develop and understand empathy.
They’ll encounter situations such as choosing people for teams and ensuring everyone is included in group tasks.
In these circumstances, kids will learn more about other people’s feelings, the importance of roles, and resolving conflict.
With access to unstructured playtime, an assortment of emotions can be experienced, tested, and expressed.
Each activity can be a fantastic learning experience for them to better connect with other’s emotions.
Apart from social and physical benefits, outdoor play for early education is imperative for mental acuity.
From exploring a child’s imagination to boosting self-confidence, there are several areas where nature can be beneficial.
Have you ever encountered an obstacle that seemed too challenging to face?
Children do every day, and the more they’re exposed to challenges, the more they can improve to boost their self-confidence.
Some outdoor play puts kids in situations they otherwise wouldn’t experience in the classroom.
For example, conquering a slide on the jungle gym or mastering the monkey bars.
Since they have new experiences, they can learn how to deal with obstacles healthily and productively.
One of the most impressive features of any child is their imagination and creativity.
Outdoor play is a phenomenal way to help kids access the more unique areas of their brain to explore novel concepts.
There are hundreds of ways to play with their imaginations, whether reenacting movie scenes or pretending to be superheroes.
You’d be surprised to see the number of creative things children express when outdoors.
They might create new and fun games to play with friends, such as “the floor is lava“.
You could also notice they create make-believe scenarios for them and their friends to experience.
The more kids are encouraged to use their imagination, the more benefits their minds experience.
Kids can become better playmates as they become accustomed to playing with new and old friends.
They’re also likely to be happier and improve their problem-solving skills by conquering imaginary scenarios.
As mentioned, outdoor play can help significantly reduce the level of stress children experience daily.
This point is significant to consider when it comes to school.
Giving students a break in between classes allows them to get out into the fresh air to clear their minds.
It also provides a healthy separation between learning and free time.
Students can reduce pent-up frustrations by running around in fields, playing soccer, or even drawing with chalk.
At the end of their playtime, they’ll have a clearer mind with better insight to tackle their schoolwork.
It can often be beneficial to give children breaks in between learning so they can become reinvigorated.
Otherwise, you might begin to notice they lose their concentration and get bogged down in the middle of the day.
Enjoyable School Experiences
By far, one of the most beneficial advantages of outside play is encouraging students to enjoy school.
Schoolwork can be overwhelming, tedious, and discouraging for students, especially in bland classrooms.
When teachers implement outdoor play, it gives students access to a new environment filled with opportunity.
Regular outdoor activities can be beneficial for development but can also impact a child’s opinion on learning.
You’ll begin to notice higher attendance rates and a more positive attitude when attending classes.
In fact, students might be excited to come to class if outdoor play is guaranteed.
Importance of Outdoor Play in Early Childhood Education: In Conclusion
The importance of outdoor play in early childhood education is essential to consider when teaching.
When combined with Children Learning Reading, you can introduce new concepts to students easier.