The Benefits of Free Outside Play in Childcare
Environment as the Third Teacher
At Hamersley Early Learning School, we consider the environment to be a third teacher, offering many important lessons. We embrace a philosophy of holistic education, placing value on the connection and relationship between things.
The environment that surrounds us while we learn is equally important to that learning as the content of the lesson. It can be both incorporated into existing lessons, as well as becoming the lesson itself.
At Hamersley Early Learning School, we have taken time to create an outdoor environment which is inclusive, dynamic, and inspiring. The use of natural materials throughout our structures is an expression of our connection to the natural world and the importance of sustainable practices. The area has been cared for and nurtured to create a peaceful ambience, with play equipment providing safe challenges and healthy risk taking.
What We Can Learn:
“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, and storytellers, of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
In the 1990’s American educator David W. Orr, with Frito Capra, introduced to the world the idea of Eco literacy, a philosophical view which sees our greatest learning coming from an understanding of the interconnectedness of things. Eco literacy seeks to teach our children of the impact of our actions on our environment, and the people in it.
We now understand that amongst the most important learning experiences for young minds are those which build an understanding of how things work, and the reason behind things. This teaching will support children to contribute to and participate in the world, rather than merely being consumers of that world.
The future wellbeing of our environment is one the key issues our young people will face as they grow. Creative thinking, problem solving, confidence and vision are all invaluable skills for our children to learn.
The benefits to children of outdoor play are manifold, and it’s not hard to convince them of this either. The outdoor environment has a unique energy that appeals to children’s curious nature. Let’s look at some of the things that happen when we go outside.
When we step outside, we are instantly connected to what is going on at this moment in time. That is, as opposed to an indoor world, or a digital world, we are exposed to the elements as they are today. Young children respond well to the immediacy of this learning experience. In addition to learning about the concept of autumn, its place on the calendar, and the features of autumn weather, they can also step outside and experience it.
Flexibility of Play
Outdoor environments allow for a range of levels of activity. Not all outdoor play needs to be vigorous. Quiet reflective time can be taken as well. The space can be used in a range of ways, and boundaries around play being contained, or quiet can be relaxed. Concern about spilling water, or making mess can also be more relaxed, with getting dirty becoming a positive outcome!
Outdoor play is great for confidence building. In early childhood, as in later life, our sense of confidence in the world is often connected to our physicality. Feeling strong and balanced in our body helps us to feel emotionally grounded. The sense of achievement gained from completing physical challenges has a wonderfully positive impact on children’s self-esteem. Mastering a climbing rope, balance beam or obstacle course teaches children resilience and persistence. These qualities can then be applied to other areas of life with the same rewarding results.
The sensory experience of the outdoor environment allows the mind to become quiet. Sitting in the winter sun, or under a tree in the fragrant spring breeze can be mesmerising, especially for little ones. The natural light and acoustics of the outdoors provide a balancing ambience. Jarring sounds are absorbed by grass, soil and trees, and there is no need for artificial light. This can be meditative for children, allowing them to turn down the thinking process and just be.
Teaching children about sustainability is easy in the outdoors. The reasons behind it and ways to achieve it can be referenced simply by looking around. If children are to one day take on practices which support the environment they must want to do so. Cultivating a genuine care for why they see around them will allow helpful behaviours to evolve naturally. When a child see’s a cocoon on a fence post, and waits for the butterfly to emerge, they learn about life. The time it takes for beautiful things to happen, the way nature will take its course without any help from us, and the magical transformation that occurs inside the Cocoon. A child will then know, from firsthand experience, that it is important to leave that cocoon where it is until the butterfly is born.
At Hamersley Early Learning School, we provide children with opportunities to watch things in their environment grow and change as they play. We have a vegetable patch for seedlings to flourish, a variety of play equipment to build muscle strength and co-ordination, a sand play area for free play, and natural logs for balance and climbing. Children are encouraged to approach outdoor play with a sense of freedom and openness, without the need for an outcome.
With so many benefits to outdoor play, many family feel it is important that their child care centre offers a nourishing and inspiring outdoor free play area.
At Hamersley Early Learning School, we can guarantee your child will have this. If you would like to find out more about the role of outdoor play, how your child benefits from outside play, or to enrol your child at Hamersley Early Learning School please Contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you.