My son was only 11 months old and couldn’t walk, yet there he was, yellow muddy buddy suit zipped in, crawling through the mud and sticks on another wet west coast day. Zacharie had just started daycare at our North Vancouver community centre and they had him outside every day; rain or shine (and it being North Vancouver, it was often rain).
Being new parents in the spring of 2008, we were hyper vigilant to house or son in every precious bubble we could find. So we challenged the daycare staff as to why they would put Zacharie outside when he couldn’t yet walk.
“Our kids play outside every day,” was the firm, confident response that came back. There wasn’t much we could do about it really. We quietly complained to ourselves at home, and then we loosened the leash, let the professionals do their job, and realized that it wasn’t that bad (once we gave him a complete hose down every night and dug out all the wood chips and mud from under his tiny nails).
Developing Physical Skills
The outdoors is the very best place for preschoolers to practice and master emerging 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 the practice of ball handling skills, like throwing, catching, and striking.
And children can perform other such manipulative skills as pushing a swing, pulling a wagon, and lifting and carrying movable objects.
Develops Life Skills
Outdoor play is a form of learning for children. Children improve their social, communication, creative thinking and problem solving skills playing on their own or with a group while engaging with the natural environment around them.
Developing Healthy Habits
It is in the outdoors that children are likely to burn the most calories, which helps prevent obesity. With Canadian children near the bottom of international physical activity survey, and with parents identifying physical activity of their children as a major concern in a recent YMCA Healthy Kids survey, outdoor play is critical to helping children develop healthy physical activity habits.
Developing Confidence Outdoor Play Contributes to Learning
The outdoors has something more to offer than just physical benefits. Children need to learn how to take risks without being guided by a parent or teacher. Outdoor play encourages children to push their boundaries.
Their self-confidence, self esteem and decision making skills improve while navigating unknown or new situations. Is this big slide as scary as I think it is? Will I be able to climb this tree? It could start with something simple like a cubby house with slide.
There was a discussion on my dad bloggers group this week about which YouTube channels are best for kids to watch, and I had to back away from the keyboard. I’m always at a loss how people let their kids mash YouTube for hours at a time to the point where they are “hooked” or “addicted” or “omg love that YouTuber.” Sure, I understand the attraction of digital pacifiers, and my kids have them, but wouldn’t you rather your kid played than watched? Do you want them to be a spectator or a participant?
My kids play. And that love of play started very young, before Zacharie could even walk, crawling through puddles, eating mulch, causing me angst and giving himself many smiles. A preschool habit of playing outside raised a kid who loves animals, asks to “play hide and seek with nature,” and climbs mountains.