Children are notorious for their natural curiosity and intrinsic need for outdoor exploration.  Building snow forts, skipping stones, and gathering seashells are just a few favorite activities among children. Adults may remember that some of our favorite childhood memories involve being outside. If we close our eyes, we can almost recall the smell of orange blossoms in a field, the feeling of sand on our toes at the beach or the sensation of the wind blowing through our hair as we propelled our swings into the expansive universe!  Outdoor time was so valued that many of us would stay outside until dinner time.  It is unfortunate that, due to safety, academic demands and busy calendars, this generation of children is not afforded those same opportunities.
Many early childhood programs have responded with outdoor classroom options and an emphasis on outdoor curriculum. In the past, playground time was geared primarily for large motor activity, but every other domain of learning may take place outside as well including the following:

  • Mathematics:  children can count stones to practice addition and subtraction and to reinforce one-to-one correspondence.
  • Physical Science:  children can observe the effect of light fading black construction paper around an object.
  • Natural Science: children can interact with nature as they work in a garden or observe butterfly metamorphosis.
  • Language and Literacy:  Story time can take place on a blanket under a tree and the alphabet can be drawn on the sidewalk for letter recognition.
  • Social/emotional development:  Outdoor environments allow children to do what they do best play and explore.  Consequently, they are better behaved than in the confines of an indoor classroom.
  • Visual and Performing arts:  Accessories such as a basket of dress up clothes fosters children’s natural creativity through dramatic play.

One of the biggest benefits of outdoor exploration is the fact that it is budget friendly.  Getting outside is free and reaps a big return in all areas of development (social/emotional, cognitive, and physical).  The next time your child is bored, consider cutting off their technological screen time in exchange for outdoor play.  They may protest at first, but over time they will come to cherish those childhood memories!

Cindy Hartwig,
Preschool Director,
All Aboard Preschool