The benefits to young children are so numerous that they outweigh the negative comments you may hear. “The parents will get mad if their child gets dirty!” “It’s not worth it, and they never bring a change of clothes either.” “Are you going to clean them up when we come back inside?”
Let’s put all that negativity aside. Going outside does not mean that you have to let them swim in mud puddles. It means setting up and providing a space outdoors that allows children to feel the air, sun and sprinkles on their skin. From there you can grow into more adventurous activities.
Start with getting parents and staff on board. Begin with a series of newsletter articles or trainings that discuss the benefits of outdoor play. Doing this on an ongoing basis can keep outside time on everyone’s radar, and as new staff and parents come on board they understand too.
Below are some ideas that will gradually increase everyone’s enjoyment of the outdoors and they aren’t too messy. So let’s get our feet wet!
- Put on those jackets and go for a nature walk. Use any of their senses as your theme! What are you hearing, seeing and smelling? Compare things that are rough or smooth, dry or wet.
- Bubbles are an all-around favorite. Instead of the bottle where you hold the wand and blow, try a tub. You can provide where they can mix and use wands the children make, then run around chasing bubbles.
- Take your paint easel outdoors, or bring nature items indoors to paint with. Fall is the perfect time to find leaves, pine cones and nuts to paint with or weigh and measure.
Once we all get used to doing these types of activities, we can begin to introduce many more activities, that allow for even more exploration and learning. The world outside is big, messy and fun! Let’s learn outside!
Still not convinced? The report from the National Wildlife Federation makes a convincing and fun case on all the benefits of playing outside.