How Outdoor Learning and Natural Play Benefits Children
There is no better place for children to learn, than outdoors, and no better play resource than nature itself. Simply put, play is learning. Children will naturally reap the benefits of being submerged in the great outdoor to play and to learn. They will gain a great connectivity with the natural environment, and playing outdoors gives children the chance to explore and run free!
Exposure to natural play is extremely important and can help children to have a positive mind and with research showing that it improves their overall wellbeing.
UK children are losing contact with nature at a “dramatic” rate, and their health and education are suffering, a National Trust report says. The NHS also recommends that toddlers and preschool-aged children should have at least 3-4 hours per day of physical activity, so if this exercise can take place outside then this becomes even more of a benefit to a young child.
Outdoor play is also crucial for the brain’s healthy development. Researchers say that the frontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling emotions and problem solving, is activated during playtime. The experience of playing forces the brain to make those neurotransmitter connections that are critical to a child’s development. Imaginative play and child development go hand in hand.
During independent play, where there is little structure or rules, children are then able to solve complex social and emotional problems with little outside assistance. The children will then be the ones who make the critical decisions for what they feel the rules and parameters should be for their games or activities, which in turn improves children’s negotiating and social skills. These skills are especially important for children with processing or developmental disorders, as their brains need more practice wiring these routes to achieve successful social interactions.
Through ‘just playing’ children are running, jumping, climbing, squatting, and rolling – using their bodies is then a form of fun and informal exercise. For children with special needs, outdoor play is especially critical in core muscle development, small motor skill refinement, and increasing coordination. Children need to navigate obstacles, maintain appropriate space around other children, and use their strength to throw, catch and manipulate objects. So when a child is asked to “go and play outside”, they are not just outside they are promoting healthy brain development as well as a workout.
In addition to this, there is growing evidence showing that:
- children learn more and behave better when lessons are conducted outdoors
- symptoms of children diagnosed with ADHD improve when they are exposed to nature
- children say their happiness depends more on having things to do outdoors more than owning technology. Yet British parents feel more pressure to provide gadgets for their children than in other European countries
Timotay believes that…
- It’s empowering, stimulating and essential for both teachers and students to teach and learn in an outdoor classroom.
- We need to be playful again. Reconnect with nature, spend time outside, climb trees, laugh and embrace and encourage the inner child within all of us.
- Children need to learn how to become stewards of our environment and do so while connecting with their community, their elders, and their peers.
- It’s all about planting those early “seeds of inspiration.”
At Timotay we are proud to have promoted this for 30 years and how spending time in nature and getting them outdoors daily. We have a number of solutions that range from playground equipment, that you can purchase online to fully managed playground design and construction service, example can be found here. All of our playground equipment has a play value and learning outcome and is handcrafted by our skilled woods craftsmen using approved sustainable timber. We will only use the finest quality timber for longevity and safety of your equipment by managing the entire process