Why is Outdoor Play Important?
As soon as babies are a few days old, parents will be taking them out in their prams to go shopping, visit relatives or just take a walk. Outdoors babies experience a different view of the world than they do in their homes.
Sunlight creates shadows against the parasol of their pram, it dapples through shadows of things you pass, cars vroom past and birds sing. People stop to say hello and make the baby smile, the checkout at the supermarket makes a strange sound, toys hung from the top of the pram make sounds and provide visual distractions as the breeze and light catches them. All these experiences, from days and weeks old, begin to acclimatize the baby to the wonders of the outdoor world beyond the home, providing a range of every changing sensory stimulation that comes for free and is richer in potential than any bought toy.
A lifelong relationship between the baby as a new human being and his or her natural environment is fostered through these early interactions and experiences. As parents gradually increase the time spent outside, or the range of outdoor places to be, babies enjoy a pleasure from being outside.
Parents, friends, carers, siblings and grandparents are all partners in encouraging and offering daily opportunities for babies and toddlers to experience the outdoor world.
Developing Individual Preferences
Every baby is an individual and has their own unique way of interacting with the world outside and, at the same time, there are many things that they will have in common with other children, such as a love of running and splashing in puddles.
Children will often enjoy what their parents like, but not every child is an all-weather outdoor type and this needs to be respected too. Parents will tell their child’s teacher how well they can tolerate types of weather and even the youngest child needs to have a choice about playing outside.
Robust play, whether running around, climbing or using wheeled toys promotes toddlers’ physical development and allows them to feel what it is like to be in a large space, developing confidence and spatial awareness. Safety is important and parents take great care to assess risks, such as steps, or outside water features, to ensure that babies do not come to harm.
New Sensory Experiences
The outside world offers babies and toddlers their first experience of communities. For some this will be an urban environment with varying degrees of outdoor space, while for others it will be in rural or semi-rural areas where large green areas, beaches or sandy spaces are nearby. The built environment will become increasingly of interest to toddlers as they get older, but at this age moving objects have endless fascination.
Toddlers often develop their lifelong interest in cars in this second year and sitting in their buggies, they will notice all sorts of vehicles and start to name the different kinds, differentiating their size and appearance. Buses and vans are fascinating and the social experience on a bus can make a journey even more fun for children.
The Environment as a Learning Experiences
Shopping malls and supermarket shops are often avoided by parents with toddlers but they are wonderful learning opportunities for children. As social experiences, they teach children the world from a different viewpoint and with some imaginative interaction, involving a toddler with shopping can make it bearable for all involved.
Grassy areas often allow children to interact with animals. Not every family can have a pet, or have access to an animal through grandparents or friends, so finding ways to introduce the animal world to toddlers is important. Animals are another something that moves; toddlers are fascinated by this and will want to follow a pet cat or dog in the house or one that they see in public.
At IDEA ELC, our staff know that the outside world is a fascinating place for children so it is important we make sure they experience it as widely as possible and don’t take these learning opportunities for granted.
Would you like to find out about how IDEA ELC build in outdoor learning into our curriculum? Pop along to meet our Curriculum Co-ordinator Lauren and find out what makes the Creative Curriculum so exciting. Schedule a tour by calling us on 042766714.