Your ELC shares the benefits of outdoor play and how nature can enhance open-ended play experiences for children.
Open-ended play and nature go hand in hand when it comes to child development.
The outdoors provides one of the best settings for a child to engage in open-ended play because it provides plenty of stimuli to engage with. In today’s blog, Your ELC will share why incorporating nature into open-ended play is so important to child development, and how parents and educators can make sure it’s incorporated in children’s routines.
The Importance of Nature in Play
Nature is a very special part of childhood, and is extremely important for child development. It provides room for children to run, jump, and climb, which is beneficial for physical health and development. It’s also good for children’s wellbeing—outdoor environments give children space to make noise and let off steam.
Nature provides an environment that encourages children to grow their own self-awareness, explore emotional situations, and express their creativity by interacting with the world around them, often while making friends with other children. Many parents and educators will have already observed this—children often find more entertainment in made-up games with sticks and leaves than their toys!
The Benefits of Open-Ended Play
Open-ended play involves letting children make decisions about their own play. Open-ended play allows children to develop early independence skills in a safe and supervised environment. When children direct their own play, they direct their own learning. There’s no right or wrong—just infinite room for creativity, as well as failure and problem-solving—experiences children must be able to explore safely on their own in order to develop into functional adults.
Tips for Parents and Educators
The first step is to get kids outside. Research shows less than half of Australian children play outside most days, yet 80% of parents want their children to spend more time outdoors. The hardest step is the first one—but all you have to do is take it.
The backyard and the local park are great ways to make the outside time a regular event. Planning occasional trips to national parks or the beach is another way to encourage outside time for everyone by incorporating an element of adventure.
Educators should make full use of outdoor facilities—we know the best way to deal with a room full of rowdy toddlers is to get them hatted, sunscreened, and onto the playground!
Always make sure children are actively supervised. This especially applies when outdoors, and applies to both parents and educators. Be aware of the UV index. Make sure children are protected from the elements by sunscreen, insect repellent, and appropriate clothing; and check the environment for any hazards before you allow children to run around freely. Do not forget any medical equipment a child may need, such as EpiPens.
Parents and educators engaging with children is also important for child development. Outdoor creative activities such as building sandcastles, making sticky cards, and cloud gazing are great ways of stimulating open-ended creative play. Gardening and water play are also wonderful outdoor learning opportunities. You can also consult parenting and educational resources for plenty of ideas for engaging in nature-based learning activities—even for babies.
Because it’s so crucial for child development, Your ELC centres always make sure children are presented with varied opportunities for safe and stimulating outdoor open-ended play. If you want to see what that looks like in action, book a tour with your nearest centre today.
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