Outdoor play has been a fundamental part of childhood for generations. However, family life has gone through drastic changes over the last two decades, and as a result, children in the 21st century are often more connected to electronics than the natural environment. Unfortunately, this means many infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are missing out on all the ways that playing outside contributes to early childhood learning. Below are some of the top reasons it’s essential for young kids to spend more time in nature.
Why Outdoor Nature Play Is Important to Early Childhood Learning
1. Enhances Cognitive Abilities
Playing outdoors may seem less stimulating than being inside a classroom, but it actually activates more senses. Nature can be seen, heard, smelled, and touched. Additionally, being outside in an unstructured environment improves children’s ability to focus as they break away from all the stimuli produced by technology. Natural settings can also be utilized to encourage academic inquiries. The ever-changing outdoor scenery provides endless opportunities for observation and experimentation.
2. Increases Physical Activity
One of the biggest advantages of outdoor play is that it promotes health and wellness through physical movement. Spending time in nature provides children different terrain to examine as they engage in activities such as jumping, running, climbing, balancing, and swinging. This is vital for muscle development and also allows kids to analyze their full range of motion as they see all the movements their bodies are capable of. Children who play outside often tend to remain active and healthy into adulthood.
3. Helps Develop Social Skills
Social interactions play a crucial role in early childhood learning. The more children get to be outside, the more occasions they will have to hone their social skills. In nature, kids will discover how to work together toward a common goal, share with one another, and problem solve. Since there are no set instructions for playing outdoors, children will often collaborate to make up games.
4. Learning about Self and the Environment
To learn about their own physical and emotional capabilities, children must push their limits. How high can I swing? Do I dare go down the slide? How high can I climb? To learn about the physical world, the child must experiment with the physical world. Can I slide on the sand? Can I roll on grass? What happens when I throw a piece of wood into the water? Is cement hard or soft to fall on? An essential task of development is appreciating how we fit into the natural order of things—animals, plants, the weather, and so on. To what extent does nature care for us by providing water, shade, soft surfaces, and sweet-smelling flowers? And to what extent does it present problems, such as hard surfaces, the hot sun, and thorns on bushes? We can discover this relationship with the natural world only by experiencing it as we grow up, develop, and interact with the natural environment.
Learning can take place anywhere and at every age. When children are given a chance to have rich and meaningful encounters with nature, they also receive a valuable lesson in science. Through positive outdoor experiences, they are taught to care about the Earth, animals, all living things, and their own communities.
At A Rising Star Children's Center, children are exposed to all the wonders of nature at a young age. The center’s new location offers four playgrounds designed for various age groups, as well as three and a half wooded acres to explore. Children play and explore the outdoors twice daily (weather permitting) spending considerable time playing in the great outdoors creating enjoyable memories that will last a lifetime. Call (914) 788-4582 or visit them online for more information about the early childhood learning programs they have available for families in Cortlandt Manor, NY, and the surrounding areas.