Our world is a truly beautiful place. It doesn’t take much time spent outside to realize that our world is a wonderfully-designed piece of art that is longing to be explored. There’s no greater sense of excitement than traversing a rarely visited nook of the woods, or dipping your feet in the pond through the forest. When it comes down to it, we were not meant to separate ourselves from nature, but to exist in it.
Humans thrive in nature. Something comes alive in us when we step outside and begin a new journey. As true as this is for us, it is even truer for our children. So much development happens in a kid’s body and mind as they play outdoors. Unfortunately, the sad reality of our society is that kids are spending less and less time outside. In fact, 68% percent of children play outside less than once a week, and the amount of distance children adventure from their home has decreased by 90% in the last three decades. With facts like that, it’s easy to see why child obesity is three times higher than it was 30 years ago.
When children are introduced to the elements at a young age, a desire inside of them begins to grow. They long for the outdoors. When mothers take their infants on walk, it leads to toddlers playing in the sandbox, preschoolers joining t-ball teams, and the cycle just continues from there. As teachers, it is important for us to have a strong focus on nature in early education curriculums; this will foster a sense of longing for the outdoors that is sure to last a lifetime.
Here are just a few ways children benefit from outdoor play:
- When children play outdoors, they begin to take greater pride in the outdoors, which leads to them being more educated in environmental issues
- Academically, children perform better and have higher average test results when they spend more time outside
- Playing outside will help children with ADHD help to have better control and focus
- Children that play outside will have heightened motor skills, balance, and agility
- Children that play outside lead healthier lives, both in fighting obesity and sickness
- Creativity abounds in children when they spend more time playing outside
- When kids spend more time playing outside and less time watching TV, they are generally happier, more innovative, more observant, and less prone to bullying
- Playing outside is a wonderful way to relieve stress, even at a young age
- As children play outside, they will turn into teens that love the outdoors, and eventually become adults to have a deep love for nature
As a teacher, you may not be able to control what happens with children at home, but in the classroom, you should work to educate children on the wonders of being outdoors and involved in nature. Have class lessons that revolve around nature. Teach classes in your outdoor classroom, or if you don’t have one, create one! Take field trips to conservation areas and national parks. Encourage active play at recess time. There are lots of steps we can take to ensure our children spend the necessary time they need outside. We only need to take the first few steps with them; after they get a taste of all that Mother Nature has to offer, they won’t want to look back.