Outdoor Play in Early Years

Whether it is winter, summer, spring or autumn there are always amazing activities that children can explore outdoors in the early years. 

Children are on holidays around the world and it’s a great time to get them playing in the backyard, at a park, beach, forest, mountains or just in the local square. 

It’s a part of learning life lessons with family, friends and enjoying unstructured play with everyone outside the classroom. 

Outdoors we can emphasise the importance of the natural elements: Earth, Wind, Water and Fire (we will say sunshine, instead of Fire).

As parents we need to reintroduce outdoor play especially to offset the increase in access to technology or as we put it, euphemistically, “screen playtime”.

Let’s try to promote exercise in the face of the increase in childhood obesity, issues with children not building resilience even foundation-level, gross motor skills.

The increase in children’s media usage was well documented, this chart from 2014 shows to myriad of static distractions available to children. These are largely direct competition to outdoor play!

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According to the “Learning Outside the Classroom” site (www.lotc.org.uk) there are some powerful arguments to find  every opportunity to take young children beyond their immediate indoor environment:

  • Learning outside the classroom supports the development of healthy and active lifestyles by offering children opportunities for physical activity, freedom and movement, and promoting a sense of well-being.
  • Learning outside the classroom gives children contact with the natural world and offers them experiences that are unique to outdoors, such as direct contact with the weather and the seasons.
  • Playing and learning outside also helps children to understand and respect nature, the environment and the interdependence of humans, animals, plants, and life-cycles.
  • Outdoor play also supports children’s problem-solving skills and nurtures their creativity, as well as providing rich opportunities for their developing imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness.
  • Children need an outdoor environment that can provide them with space, both upwards and outwards, and places to explore, experiment, discover, be active and healthy, and to develop their physical capabilities.
  • The outdoor environment offers space and therefore is particularly important to those children who learn best through active movement. Very young children learn predominately through their sensory and physical experiences which supports brain development and the creation of neural networks.

Outdoor play as mentioned above is so important to develop the foundation skills in a child from gross motor skills, balance, coordination, creativity, imagination and many more. 

Children will learn to assess safety and risks, by experimenting on their own. Children will be actively engaged continuously with the excitement of being outside, amongst nature and the elements.

How can we approach this? Let’s start with activities like running outside, exploring the area seeking out the birds, insects, mud, sand, grass even concrete! 

There is always an interesting game to play if your children use their imagination and creativity. My son loves going out and jumping in the mud once it has rained and we go walking in the fields or even running down the sand dunes.

What techniques have you found to tear kids away from their comfortable media choices inside to explore the great outdoors? And how do you bring the elements (Earth, Wind, Water and Fire/Sunshine) to life as part of outdoor play?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. We spend a lot of time at the beach. It has been so cold here so we have been bundled up at home a lot. We are excited for longer days to come.. We always have a family movie on just for the noise at home. They do love to play with their cell phones (they have only had them for 2 days) the rules are no internet, no apps unless they are sitting next to me for small amounts of time. I feel like they get cranky when you let them just go and go on the iPad and then have to bring them back to the normal world, so… so far they only get to play on iPad when they go to Grandmas house. Getting outside is so important and us as adults and parents need to put it away too and look up!


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