The Benefits of Outdoor Play
After a very long very cold winter stuck inside, the sun is finally shining and the temperature is above freezing. All of the children at the center are happy to feel the sun shine on their faces and wind against their backs. As teachers, we are thrilled to be able to take our amazing young learners outside to play and learn. Many times in the afternoon at pickup we are approached by parents questioning why we go outside. What are their children learning and how is it helpful?
Children enjoy doing outdoor activities and using their muscles to run, swing, jump, and ride a bike. They like to use their whole body when they play outdoors, and find physical activities interesting and take pride and what they have done.
According to Kathleen Alfano Ph.D. Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price, “Playing outdoors is a form of exercise that promotes well-being and wholesome physical development. Children are drawn to active play outdoors: it allows them to explore their environment, develop muscle strength and coordination, and gain self-confidence.” Playing outdoors also helps build flexibility, fine and gross motor skills.
When children are pushed in a swing, or when they “pump” to swing themselves, they are using all of their muscles to hold on. Swinging teaches children cause and effect and understanding of space, such as up and down and back and forth. While swinging, children get a chance to see the world from a new view. Often time young children are afraid to swing. Help comfort your little one by using a swing with a back and seat belt. For the little ones, start out slowly and push from the front, so they can see you. Play a peek-a-boo game for even more fun!
The outdoors is the very best place for preschoolers to practice physical skills. It is in the outdoors that children can fully and freely experience motor skills like running, leaping, and jumping. It is also the most appropriate area for practicing skills, like throwing, catching, and kicking. Children can perform other manipulative skills such as, pulling a wagon, building a sand castle, and lifting and carrying movable objects.
So the next time your little one comes home with muddy feet and dirt on their hands, please know that instead of just playing with their friends and toys they helped themselves become a better and smarter little scholar. So, take the children outside to play. It’s a wonderful way to spend the day!
Hug a Tree and Other Things to Do Outdoors with Young Children by Robert Rockwell, Robert Williams, and Elizabeth Sherwood. Gryphon House, 1983.
Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Bharat Cornell. Ananda Press, 1982.
The Great Outdoors: Restoring Children’s Right to Play Outside by M.S. Rivkin. NAEYC, 1995.
Kathleen Alfano Ph.D. Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price®
– See more at: http://www.fisher-price.com