The sensory experience of outdoor play has a profound effect on learning. The sounds, smells, textures and temperatures of the outdoor ‘classroom’ fire up the senses and stimulate young minds in a completely different way to the indoors.
The park is always fun, and when children are small, offers a safe environment where it’s easy to enjoy being outside. But as they get older, children can benefit from a rougher outdoor play setting, where slides are replaced by muddy banks or sand dunes, and climbing frames are replaced by trees.
This sort of play requires strong gross motor and subtle fine motor movements, judgement, courage, strength and determination - all skills which give them self-confidence in the use of their own bodies and minds. Outdoor play also offers the chance to run, scream, get messy and ‘go wild’ without the boundaries and limitations of an indoor environment. Children can navigate new surfaces and terrains, and use aspects of their physicality that might otherwise go unchallenged - long distance vision and hearing, for example. Exposure to sunlight, better health and absorption of nutrients from their diet - the list of benefits is ample.
If you don’t have lots of time or an outdoor space that’s easy to access, you can still fire up muscles and minds with outdoor activities in the park or on the walk to nursery. Here are a few to try:
- Running to a target and back again
- Hopping or marching
- Running or walking on tip-toe
- Walking while making swimming movements with arms
- Hide and seek