Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Teaching children how to play outdoors

I hear it more and more often, either programs don't take their children outside to play because they feel pressured to accomplish learning goals OR they do take the children outside but then the children don't know what to do once they get out there.  It is becoming more and more common for our young children to not know how to engage in an unstructured outdoor environment, which means that it is our job to teach them!

As a child I hated playing outside, I was that girl who didn't like bugs or dirt or sweating. Even though I complained, my mom insisted that I go out and entertain myself.  I often feel the need to remind parents, and even teachers, that it is good for our children to be bored.  When they are bored they are more likely to use their imaginations and give in to their curiosities.  Outside this can mean exploring worlds that they never knew existed.

Encourage children to pay attention to bugs; find out where they're going and why, see how many different types you can find, create homes, castles, or meals for them, come up with their life stories.

Hunt for different textures, how many can you find? Are there more things that feel rough and scratchy, or more that are soft and tickly?

Dig in the dirt.  What is in there? Does it feel different the farther down you go?Look at different types of dirt and guess why they might be different even though they are so close together.

Chase birds and moths and butterflies.  Run as fast as you can, and then be as quiet as you can.  Sneak up on each other.

Listen to the wind, and try to dance like it.  Is it moving fast or slow?

Play pretend. Find a tree stump and make it the look out on your pirate ship.  Set up a home under the canopy of a tree.  Make soup out of grass and mulch and stones.

Most children will just need a little nudge before they become engrossed in play and exploration.  Use these ideas to get started and then follow their lead.

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