The importance of outdoor play

The importance of outdoor play

We are very lucky in South Africa with the climate that we have.  Our children play outdoors much more than most European countries.  Whatever the weather though, think of your garden or any outdoor space as Natures Classroom.  Every sense and area of learning can be stimulated just by being outside.  It is important to create an understanding of the environment from an early age, and the reasons why we need to preserve our world.

In this natural wonderland, your baby benefits in many ways:

Health

Being outdoors means your child is exposed to sunlight and fresh air, both of which have health benefits.  The extra space outdoors also means your baby can get moving.  Crawling, standing, walking, running, climbing – any age can enjoy moving and it will feel like play rather than exercise.

Sensory development

Every sense is stimulated in the garden:

  • Place your baby on the grass to feel the texture
  • Crush leaves in autumn
  • Play in puddles and squish the mud between the toes
  • Place your baby on a blanket under a tree and enjoy the watching the leaves moving and the effect it has on light,
  • Feel the temperature in the air,
  • Listen for bugs or birds
  • Smell the earth.

The garden stimulates the seeking instinct in toddlers and they will explore and discover things as they go.  Every season has something different to offer.

Physical development

By exploreing the garden your baby will develop his gross motor skills as he gets his body moving.  Add a ball, bike, trampoline for added enjoyment and movement.  Digging in the soil, picking up stones, leaves or worms help to develop fine motor skills.

Responsibility

Being outdoors means your child is exposed to choices and dangers they will not experience playing indoors.  They learn what to avoid, where it is safe to go and dressing appropriately for the weather.  Help your baby to learn that the garden is a safe place but that caution is needed.

Memory and Success

You may find your baby always crawls towards a certain patch in the garden that he likes or you toddler will want to play the same games over and over again.  Encourage this use of early memory.  Plant flowers, seeds, bulbs and vegetables in your garden and encourage your tot to participate in looking after them and watching how they change every week.  There is nothing like seeing the face of a toddler who makes the connection that the bulb he planted in the autumn is the daffodil he sees in spring, or picking the tomatoes from your garden and using them in your salads.  What a great success.

If you are considering child care options for your 2 to 3 year old then look no further than PLAY SENSE, a home based childcare program that uses free and guided play to enhance social learning and prepare children to be creative, engaged and excited to learn.  For more info visit www.playsense.org

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