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April 16, 2013

The Importance of Outdoor Play

Did you know that daily outdoor play is a child care program requirement? Young children of all ages benefit greatly from the endless opportunities of outdoor play. It is here that children can fully experience gross motor skills outdoor play photo 1such as running, jumping and leaping. They can express these movements more freely, having ample space and obstacles to explore. Throwing, catching, pushing, lifting and carrying are additional benefits that can be discovered and practiced independently or structured into a game among friends.

outdoor play photo 6

The outdoors has something more to offer than just these physical benefits, however. Cognitive and social-emotional development are impacted, too. Outside, children are more likely to invent games. As they do, they’re able to express themselves an learn about the world in their own way. They feel safe and in control, which promotes autonomy, decision-making, and organizational skills. Inventing rules for games (as preschoolers like to do) promotes an understanding of why rules are necessary. Although the children are only playing to have fun, they are learning.

While outdoors, reflect on what the children are doing and how they are doing it. What kind of choices are they making in terms of how they use the space? Do they seek out others and engage them to play? Listen to how they are communicating. Are they inventing? Are they enforcing rules? Are they compromising? Are they using number relationships to keep score or count? Many of the things you see and hear can be pulled into classroom discussions, adapted into an indoor center activity, used as a writing prompt, easel starter, etc.

When you have a successful moment using these reflective practices, be sure to share with peers!

Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce