Posted on 03/19/2014 at 01:08 PM by Global Reach
We all have heard plenty about how outdoor play helps to combat child obesity, but does it also make kids smarter? Research is showing that it does, especially where nature is involved. Nature is viewed as medicine that produces a stronger mental muscle. Even just a 20-minutes walk in nature prompts a chemical shift in the brain that boosts attention span. The self-directed play that results from children having the choices that outdoor spaces provide is also part of why outdoor play makes kids smarter. Even if they are bored outdoors at first soon they learn to organize themselves and figure out what interests them. That kind of problem solving enhances executive thinking. The physical activity of outdoor play also causes children to perform better because it boosts self-confidence. Wow! You get a lot of cognitive bang for your buck that the outdoors provides!
One reason for providing daily outdoor play experiences for children is that they learn to use their bodies in various ways. Here are some words that describe how children might use their bodies when playing on an $50,000 outdoor play structure: run, jump, turn, push, pull, slide, bend, twist, crawl, yell, climb, dance, stretch, curl, balance, squeeze, squat. Here are some words that describe how children might use their bodies when playing with a free large cardboard box: run, jump, turn, push, pull, slide, bend, twist, crawl, yell, climb, dance, stretch, curl, balance, squeeze, squat. Hmmm…the descriptors are identical. We cannot use the excuse of lack of funds to keep us from providing children with valuable outdoor experiences. Bring out those loose materials (balls, hoops, riding toys, sand toys, musical instruments, paint easels, dress-up clothes, stuffed animals, you name it) to add richness to outdoor play!
How long should our preschool outdoor choice time be according to commonly used curriculums that support Iowa’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for 4-Year-Old Children? Creative Curriculum suggests 40 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon for full-day programs and 30 minutes for half-day programs. HighScope suggests 30-40 minutes every day. #7 in the NAEYC’s 10 Signs of a Great Preschool states, “Children have opportunity to play outside every day. Outdoor play is never sacrificed for more instructional time.”
Remember…children cannot bounce off the walls if we take the walls away.