In recent years, the onset of technological advances combined with a cultural shift in society due to fears for children’s safety, has led to a reduction in time spent outdoors. With no space restraints and the freedom to run, jump, shout and play, outdoor learning opportunities give children a chance to explore, release all of their pent up energy and learn more about the world around them.
Research has shown that free play outdoors aids the development of cognitive, emotional, physical and social skills. That’s why outdoor learning activities should play a key part in the curriculum of every educational facility as they offer fantastic benefits to the development of each child both physically and mentally.
Following are just some of the ways outdoor learning benefits children:
1. It encourages an active lifestyle
With the alarming increase in childhood obesity, active outdoor activities play a more important part in the health of children than ever before.
Children who have fun playing outdoors are more likely to continue doing so and will potentially develop a love of activity that can help them not only physically but mentally as well all throughout their lives.
Early education facilities provide a safe, nurturing environment where children can learn new activities, discover their own capabilities and develop a love for spending time outdoors.
2. It develops an appreciation of nature and the environment
Outdoor learning opportunities help children learn more about the world around them and develop an appreciation of what they see.
In an outdoor classroom, children can see life happening right before their eyes. They learn to respect and to nurture growing things, developing a love of nature as they interact with it, observing plants and animals in their natural habitat and lifecycles.
As the seasons change, children observe not only the changes in the weather but they can observe how animals react to those changes (e.g. caterpillars nestling in for the winter)
3. It develops social skills
While it may seem like just a lot of playing, children are building their social skills by learning to cooperate, to express themselves and to listen to others. Outdoor play also offers children the opportunity to meet new friends and to interact with their peers, playing both fun and imaginary games they may not be able to play at home.
Children who are naturally shy may have a more difficult time interacting with others when indoors due to space constraints that aren’t an issue when outdoors. As these children have more room to move about while outside, they can slowly start to interact with their peers without feeling intimidated by a small space.
4. It encourages independence
The freedom of exploration while outside is a great boost for a child’s self-esteem. As they play outdoors, children make their own discoveries and create games and activities for themselves and their friends.
As they learn to become independent, they develop a positive, “can do” attitude that supports their learning and follows them throughout their lives.
When playing with others, it’s not uncommon for disagreements to arise. If left alone, children will very often find ways to solve their disagreements and move forward with the activity they were engaged in when the conflict began.
Even the youngest of children benefit from playing outdoors. Experts in child development know that very young children learn mostly through sensory and physical experiences; which are abundantly available outdoors.
5. It helps in understanding risk
In a familiar indoor environment, children have few opportunities to assess risk and learn how to manage new situations. An outdoor education provides opportunities for children how to determine the risk of a particular activity.
For example, when indoors children can’t jump off a chair because of the risk of harm, but when outdoors they can learn how to assess their abilities and the risk of say jumping off a log or whether or not they can climb a tree. While most schools offer some kind of physical activity, few of them have an outdoor classroom that is purposely designed to spark a desire to learn more about the world around them.
At Voyagers’ we have created such a classroom.