Human beings as a species are designed to spend their time predominantly outside and active as would have been the case in hunter-gatherer societies. Today things are a bit different! We no longer live outdoors or have to hunt for our food but this doesn’t mean that we no longer need time outdoors, in fact, we need it more than ever. Being outside has great benefits to babies, toddlers, and young children as well as adults, teenagers and the elderly. Here at See Us Grow Childcare and Learning Center we are passionate about outdoor play and have built plenty of time outdoors into our programs to benefit your children. So, let’s take a brief look at why outdoor play is so important;
The outdoor lifestyle of our ancestors allowed for plenty of exposure to the sun and fresh air. Exposure to the sun is required for the skin to produce vitamin D which helps the body to absorb calcium thereby increases bone density.
As well as vitamin D, being outside causes the human body to produce more serotonin; the ‘feel-good’ hormone that prevents depression and eases anxiety. For our children at See Us Grow, this lays an important foundation for learning as a calm, happy mind is a mind ready to learn.
It’s no secret that the U.S. is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, and at See US Grow we are keen to set children up with healthy habits for life. Playing outdoors is a great way of keeping kids active and physically healthy as it encourages large scale movement and cardiovascular activity in a way that the indoor environment doesn’t.
In learning to climb a child doesn’t just learn to climb, instead, they learn to estimate measures of space, to weigh up risk, to assess the best route, to problem solve and change course, a sense of gravity, and self-limitation and so on!
The kinds of movement afforded to children playing outdoors create neural pathways in their brains; it is thought in action. As children move, they sort through, process, make sense of, and ‘file’ their thoughts.
The outdoor environment creates opportunities for risk, a key ingredient of good learning in early childhood. Don’t panic! This doesn’t mean a deliberate disregard of danger but just allowing children the space to negotiate appropriate risk. Our society has become increasingly ‘risk-adverse’ but risk-taking in play helps children to test their physical limits, develop their perceptual-motor capacity, and learn to avoid and adjust to dangerous environments and activities.
Connection to nature
Playing outdoors also promotes a stronger connection to nature and the environment, allowing children to encounter the weather and the seasons as they change. In Connecticut where we have rich and diverse seasons, this is a huge element of learning about the natural environment.
Outdoors rather than being provided with resources, children become resourceful. Instead of playing with plastic toys that “do it all for them” we find children playing with sticks, stones, movement, imagination, and creating their own environments through den building or obstacle courses. This gets their imaginations fired up and benefits their learning.
Most adults, when asked to recall a favorite childhood memory will offer a response that includes playing outdoors, so we think that it’s really important to allow children here at See Us Grow Childcare and Learning Center the opportunity to create those kinds of happy memories too.
These are just some of the benefits that outdoor play has to offer. Hopefully, you can see why we are passionate about creating time for children to play outdoors and have built it into our programs.
Do you have a happy memory of playing outdoors as a child? Perhaps you could share it with us!