Today, many families are experiencing the struggle to get their kids off of their screens and outside. Excessive screen time can have negative effects on young children including being at a higher risk for obesity due to being less active, having difficulty sleeping, lacking attention span, and even serious consequences such as anxiety and depression. At Educational Playcare, we understand the importance of being in good physical health, which is why Wellness is one of our Core Values. One way to fight against the overuse of technology is engaging in outdoor play.
The importance of outdoor play for young children cannot be overstated. That’s why at Educational Playcare, we bring learning to the great outdoors! Our playgrounds are equipped with materials and equipment that allow our teachers to bring the fun outside. Our outdoor learning centers include items such as weather stations, giant outdoor musical instruments, easels, huge outdoor construction sets, cascading water tables, and so much more! Some centers even have a “mud-kitchen”, complete with running water!
The Benefits of Play
Play researchers adamantly argue that authentic play is (and has always been) the most critical activity of early childhood, and it provides children with a number of benefits, including:
- Promoting creativity and imagination
- Improving problem-solving skills
- Encouraging higher IQ scores
- Promoting emotional and social development
- Engendering a sense of self and a sense of place, allowing children to recognize both their independence and interdependence
- Fostering cognitive, emotional, and moral development, especially in outdoor settings
- Improving such motor skills as balance, coordination, and agility, critical for growing bodies
Far from being frivolous, play is the fuel that drives healthy brain development, and the very crucible of learning.
Ways to Encourage Children to Play Outdoors
- Give children a place on the porch, deck, or in the bedroom where they can display nature treasures that they find and want to keep.
- Provide simple tools to aid discovery. Children love tools! Include a bug box, trowel, magnifier, binoculars, etc.
- When you take children to parks and other natural areas, allow them to explore. Let them decide which trails to take. Stay nearby for safety, but don’t interfere or help unless asked.
- Encourage plenty of time outside. Consider taking a walk to the library, store, or post office instead of driving.
- If a child asks or remarks about a landmark or natural feature you drive past often, find out more about it and go for a visit.
- Take advantage of the natural resources available in your area. Take children canoeing, kayaking, or fishing.
- Take a few leaves from different trees while the children are not looking. Give them the leaves and ask them to find which trees they came from.
- Provide a tree identification book to help children learn about the trees in their own neighborhood.
- In the fall, leave the fallen leaves down for a while, so children can run around and shuffle through them or rake up a big leaf pile and let them demolish it.
- Put out bird feeders that can be seen easily from windows. Let children help feed the birds. Keep a bird book by the window to help them identify what they see.
- Make up challenges for children to do outside, similar to the “Survivor” television show. This is a guaranteed kid pleaser, especially if there is a reward (a gift of time with Mom or Dad, or perhaps a night off from helping with the dishes).
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