Now that warmer weather is here, it's time to take your children outside to play! Nature is a powerful teacher and giving your toddlers and preschoolers the opportunity to play outside has many benefits.
Outdoor play is fun and children who are happy are thriving learners. They are naturally glad when they are playing and creating outside because being outside is exciting! Outdoor play involves many different senses. While outdoors, encourage your children to see, hear, smell and touch new things.
Playing outside also stimulates creativity. Rocks, twigs and soil present so many unique opportunities for play. Suggest an activity where your child can build a tower with rocks and sticks or help your child to dig for insects. Time in nature helps children to observe patterns. The natural world is overflowing with patterns. Help your child count the petals on flowers, the veins on a leaf, or the rings on a tree stump. Pattern building is a crucial early childhood development math skill.
In addition, playing in nature also reduces anxiety. Time spent outside helps children to relax and imagine new things. Ask your child to tell you what they see when they look at the clouds. Maybe they see a dinosaur or a ballerina?
Playing outside helps children to also learn to give respect to other living things and improve their communication skills. When studying ants, worms or ladybugs, children can learn that these creatures are very important to our environment. Ask your children, "Do you know what a worm's job is?" Be prepared for funny answers and then use this time as a teaching opportunity.
Lastly, outdoor play increases children’s physical activity. Children who play outside are less likely to be significantly overweight and more likely to be active learners. Even just a few minutes of running outside helps children to feel free and release that stored up energy. An added benefit: after exercise, children will be more likely to sit and listen to the next activity when they have had the opportunity for outside play.