Come OUTSIDE to play!

School days are coming to an end, and summer is stretched out in all its glory!  Having longer days and weather designed for picnics and beach trips helps all families to forget the long and difficult months of winter.  It is also a great time to reinvigorate our outside play energy.

The Kaleidoscope preschool staff discussed how important it is for our children to get outside during every season. We thought we would share the many good reasons for encouraging outdoor play.  Getting into the practice of going outdoors when it is easiest—in the summer—will help to build the habit for continuing outdoor adventures when the weather can be a bit more daunting.

Research is telling us that outside, unstructured play is greatly beneficial to children cognitively, physically and emotionally. An opportunity to work off the huge stores of childish energy through an hour’s worth of active play a day (at least an hour) will help your child stay physically fit. After physical play they are better able to focus on cognitive tasks with focus and attention. In addition, the peace and quiet that surrounds a child while she is outdoors helps to restore her emotionally—it is an escape from the constant rush of sounds and lights and beeps and bells that accost us all daily.

Adults often ask children to complete tasks in an effort to further their academic or developmental abilities. We focus in on one or two concepts and work in a linear fashion to help our child meet our goals. Whether it is learning to recognize shapes or colors, learn to crawl or walk, learn to say words or begin to learn to read them. All of these tasks are important; but we sometimes go through things in too singular a fashion.

We don’t remember that if a child is immersed in an environment and left to herself to create an activity, these things will be learned in a context that keeps her interest because it appeals to the whole child.  Taking a walk with a child through the woods, or even around the backyard, allows a child to be learning at every single moment. The movement of the body through the world teaches physical skills in a way that gymanstic class drills cannot match.  Excited exclamations about a worm in the soil, a bud on a tree or a bird flying high in the sky builds a natural bridge for a parent to be talking about the “oozy” worm (vocabulary), the green bud (colors) or the birds that fly in the shape of an arrow (shapes) in the autumn sky. When a parent gives her child the opportunity to explore the natural world around her, she is providing a chance for the child’s mind and body to work together, using all the different modalities of learning (cognitive, physical, emotional, social, language, spatial awareness, the list can go on and on and on).

Playing outside does not need to happen only in ideal conditions.  Finding a way to enjoy the natural weather even when it is raining, or a little colder or warmer than you would prefer, helps you and your child appreciate the varying beauty of the world we live in. Find the outer-wear that suits you both, and get out the door. Remember, your children’s energy stores don’t dwindle if the weather is less than perfect. They need to have physical exercise every day. Your child will be overjoyed if he gets the opportunity to explore the world when it is dripping with rain. As your child gets older there are fewer and fewer chances to really get dirty and muddy and fully experience the joy of splashing in puddles. Enjoy being able to give this experience to your child—the bathtub will wash away everything but the memory.

 

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