Spring has finally arrived, well for Ohioans it has mostly arrived. The warm temperatures and sunshine draws us to the outdoors. The warmth feels glorious not only to our skin, but to our souls. We, as early childhood educators, are especially aware of the need for children to play outdoors. According to research (Fjortoft; Burdette and Whitaker 2005), children who play outdoors regularly are fitter and leaner, develop stronger immune systems, have more active imaginations, have lower stress levels, play more creatively, and have greater respect for themselves and others. Also, time spent outdoors is absolutely the best way to absorb vitamin D.
We have wonderful parents at Hilliard UM Preschool, so we know that you are aware of all the physical benefits to outdoor play. Yet, outdoor play has much to offer to cognitive development, as well as social/emotional growth that might not be as familiar to you. Outside, children are more likely to invent games, as they run, jump and leap through the air. The ability to work together to create games, establish rules and organize friends are skills that help the children to understand why rules are necessary. Learning to cooperate and compromise are invaluable lessons learned in a fun and engaging way; not to mention the increase in communication skills and vocabulary. Math skills are developed as they play games that involve counting or keeping score.
Do you remember learning to swing? The sheer joy of using your “pumping legs” to soar higher and higher! Feeling as though you can almost touch the sky! Swinging actually requires the engagement of nearly all a young child’s muscles to hold on, to balance and to coordinate their body as they soar both forward and backward. Swinging allows the child to develop a sense of cause and effect, as well as spatial learning as they move up and down and back and forth.
Spring is a favorite time of the year for me. Trees budding, flowers blooming, the sound of the birds chirping, and the sight of baby birds and baby bunnies are all teachable moments. Take the time to point out the signs of spring to your child. Chat about what is needed for a flower to grow. I can guarantee that most of the children will know that sunlight, dirt, and water are needed for plant life to flourish, as it has been discussed in the classrooms as they planted their own seeds. When it rains, point out worms on the driveway and talk about why they are important to our soil. Spring brings opportunities for learning that are quite simply in your own backyard. Enjoy!!!