It goes without saying that children engaging in outdoor play is just as significant to their physical, social, emotion and mental development as being indoors. By exploring the outdoor environment children are provided with a range of opportunities and experiences designed to strengthen their gross motor skills and fine motor skills crucial to their overall development, learning and growth.
As adults (parents and educators) it is a natural feeling to protect and ensure children are safe, however having this idea consume our minds, provides limitations on children’s development and learning. A unique and critical aspect of the outdoor environment, is risky play. Creating similar outdoor size and space can be difficult.
Recently at Galada our outdoor environment has been under renovation limiting the use. Fortunately we have been lucky enough to use the community hall which offers larger space allowing children to engage in obstacle courses, games, physical activities. However, it did not reflect what the outdoor environment is.
In the outdoor environment, children have the space and freedom to climb, run, jump, chase and hop which research has shown can have a positive effect on children’s cognitive and mental development. Through these motions, children will get hurt, bruised, scratched and fall over. There will be tears and sad emotions, but engaging in risky play children become self-confidence, resilient and independent learners.
A very common practice is restricting children’s engagement with outdoor environments when it is cold and rainy. This stems from adults obtaining the misconception that winter months leads to children getting colds such as flu. Despite being called the common “cold”, exposure to lower temperate is not the cause of this virus. In fact it is the complete opposite, accordingly to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cold viruses grow best at about 91 degrees. Being outdoors during the cooler months offers fresh air and Vitamin D to children, avoiding bacteria, development of a strong immune system. (Early Childhood Australia Inc. 2021)
When exposed to the outdoor environment all year around, children are opened to a world that demonstrations various characteristics from all four seasons (Summer, Spring, Autumn and Winter). During the warmer months children can witness flowers blooming, bright green foliage on display, graceful butterflies fluttering around, buzzing bees navigating the garden.
In the cooler months children can observe leavers transforming colour, rainbow leaves gliding to the ground, pitter patter of rain, giant gooey muddy puddles are formed. By playing outside in specific times children are restricted to interact and discover each seasons unique qualities.
Being active outdoors offers children with various learning opportunities crucial for the growth and development. Even though there might be times where it is extremely difficultly, utilising this natural environment within daily routines and practices will offer children the time and space to build their emerging skills.