As the working lives of parents get busier, cities become more crowded and technology takes a grip on our lives. As a result, our children are spending more and more time indoors. The lives of children today are much more structured and supervised, with few opportunities for free play.
Research has found that 56% of children globally play outside for one hour or less each day– which is less than the two-hour guideline for maximum security prisoners in the US. Furthermore, in India, 56 per cent of parents believe their child has less opportunities to play than they did as a child.
Studies have provided cogent evidence that the way young ones feel in pleasing natural environments improves recall of information, problem solving, and creative skills. Early experiences with the natural world has a direct link with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder. Seventy-nine per cent of children report that having time to play at school helps them to concentrate in lessons.
Little ones respond more positively to experiences in the outdoors and it greatly adds to their ability to naturally experiment with independence. Children’s social, psychological, academic and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily contact with natural surroundings.
The range of outdoor activities is broad and cannot be limited to just a handful. Here are 10 popular outdoor learning activities for your little preschooler that will help them achieve developmental milestones and more –
- Plant a Tree
Gardening activity is easily adaptable for kids. It’s fun, rewarding and connected with various developmental, physical and psychological benefits. They learn about plants (and their life cycle), and growth by planting and caring for flowers and vegetables. And all that digging and pulling is great for sensory exploration as well as building hand and finger strength.
- Nature Hike
Nature offers plenty of findings for young ones. Encouraging them to locate certain types of leaves, flowers, rocks, bugs, twigs etc. promotes observation skills, fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination and the use of the five senses in exploring.
- Scavenger Hunt
This outdoor activity will get kids moving, touching, listening, noticing, and interacting with the outdoors in a totally different way. It’s a great way to show kids how to explore many of their sensory systems at once, such as gross motor skills, coordination, balance, motor control, sensory integration and visual motor integration.
- Obstacle Course
An obstacle course includes several physical activities like walking, climbing, crawling and maintaining balance, and children have to cross all of these obstacles to reach the end of the course. The game is not about the end result, but about the fun of facing and conquering the obstacle course. For preschoolers, encountering obstacles is fun because they are developing physical skills at this age. The obstacle course gives them an opportunity to test new skills and understand more about their physical abilities.
- Paint your way to fun
Gather young artists and some colours (paints, crayons, pencil colours etc.) outdoors and let them create their newest masterpiece! Kids will hone their observation skills and learn about colors. Offering colours with a built-in grip promotes a mature grasp.
- Hula Hoop Hop
Line up several hula hoops in an open space and have kids hop into the middle of each hoop with both feet. Make it a bit more challenging by encouraging them to hop into one hoop with their right foot and the next hoop with their left. All that hopping builds gross-motor coordination skills, which are necessary for sports and bike riding.
Game of hopscotch has been a popular outdoor activity for years. With the basic idea of not treading on lines, preschoolers learn to follow instructions, wait their turn, and important social skills involved in playing fair and being a good winner or loser. Children’s motor skills, balance, and agility are developed as they engage in this activity.
- Simon says dance party
Head outside with some music and host a dance party. Give short instructions for nature-based dance moves, like “wiggle like a worm,” “twist like a leaf” and “flap your arms like a bird”. Kids get to practice following simple instructions while being active. The dance actions help them develop body awareness, coordination, balance, mental connections, and socializing.
- Balance Beam and Walk the Plank
Balance beams are an amazing sensory outlet for all kids. It helps little ones develop their gross motor skills and hone their ability to balance. It also helps them gain core strength which, in turn, helps them fidget less.
- Blow bubbles and chase
Bubble games boost eye-hand coordination and gross motor skills, as well as language development. Little ones will learn about cause and effect (blow through the wand gently and watch what happens!) and basic physics (bubbles are actually round pockets of air or other gases encased in liquid).
Learning outdoors helps children build focus, boost creativity and enhance their imagination, and it’s also more fun! Whether its play, math, music, science, art, drama or a language, being outdoors makes learning truly memorable and adds to the enjoyment of childhood.
Action for Children’s Environment or ACE, an NGO and a registered charitable trust is working towards creating safe, healthy, inclusive and resilient living environments, for children and young people. ACE is calling on teachers across India to take at least one lesson outdoors on Thursday, October 12, 2017, as part of the global Outdoor Classroom Day campaign.
ACE in its drive to reconnect children with the outdoors has involved thousands of schools across the world who are taking part and to date, 2,102,579 children around the globe are a part of this campaign!
Dr. Sudeshna Chatterjee, CEO of ACE Trust said, “We’re calling on teachers, parents and anyone who cares about childhood to get involved in the campaign on October 12th, 2017. Whether that’s by taking a class outdoors, encouraging your child’s school to sign up, or helping spread the message far and wide, everyone can do something to make sure children across the country experience the benefits of playing and learning outdoors.”
Let’s encourage our children and help them reconnect with the outdoors. As a teacher, parent and facilitator we have an immense role to play. Ask your child’s school to get involved. Join thousands of schools across the world and celebrate Outdoor learning. Share this message and spread happiness and laughter. Let’s take those giggles outdoor and celebrate every moment of childhood –
To sign up Click here