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Importance of Outdoor Learning

The Importance of Outdoor Learning

Play, movement, talk and sensory experiences are key vehicles for children’s learning. Outdoor space allows very young children to move in different ways and to learn through sensory and physical experiences, which support brain development and the creation of neural networks. The changing nature of the outdoors makes it an incredibly stimulating and multi-sensory place to play.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum, which covers children aged birth to the end of the Reception year, places strong emphasis on the importance and value of daily outdoor experiences for children’s learning and development.

The three prime areas of the EYFS are:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Communication and Language
  • Physical Development

The four specific areas are:

  • Mathematical Development
  • Literacy
  • Expressive Arts and Design
  • Understanding of the World
In the Mud Kitchen

Here are just some of the key benefits of outdoor play:

  • Physical Development
    Outdoor play gives children the space to develop their physical capabilities and to be active and healthy. ‘Open space allows children to be physically active and challenge themselves so they sleep and eat well and form healthy habits that will stay with them for life.’ (The Play Strategy for Scotland, 2013). Children have the freedom to run, shout, jump, hop and skip in a way that cannot be replicated inside. They tend to be less inhibited, more motivated and more willing to join in with activities.

    According to NHS guidelines children under 5 need 3 hours’ exercise a day, and this should be a mixture of bone strengthening, muscle building and cardiovascular exercise. Research published recently by England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, found that there has been a rise in cases of rickets in children. This is from lack of exposure to sunlight, leading to Vitamin D deficiency.

  • Outdoor Music
  • Personal, Social, Emotional Development
    Exercise also helps emotional health, allowing for relaxation, calmness and a heightened sense of well being (Armstrong, 1996). Outdoor play provides opportunities for building social skills: children learn through negotiating plans with their friends, ie. building a shelter, working out whose turn it is on the swing, see saw etc. They learn to cooperate through group games and enjoy the company of others as they play and relax.

    Playing outside is an opportunity for active learning. Through an environment that is richly resourced with equipment and ideas for play children become engaged in self chosen activities and there are opportunities for role play. They become involved in activities that require concentration, and they learn the benefits of perseverance. Outdoor activity helps to promote resilience, falling over, getting muddy etc.

  • Gardening
  • Understanding of the World
    ‘Nature’s classroom’ helps children to understand nature and respect the environment. It increases their learning about flora and fauna, life cycles, the weather, seasons, growth, habitats, insulation, light and dark, sound etc. Children who gain knowledge and appreciation of nature are more likely to develop a greater sense of environmental awareness as adults.
  • Expressive Arts and Design
    It supports children’s creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills (through real life experiences), as well as providing rich opportunities for their developing imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness. Equipment and props encourage exploratory play, creating and building, providing a springboard for children’s own ideas and they will develop their own games and activities.

  • Gardening
  • Communication and Language
    Children are motivated to talk by stimulating experiences, such as climbing, mud or water play, feeding chickens, tending plants etc. Their confidence develops, along with their speaking and listening skills.
  • Literacy
    Literacy skills are enhanced in the extended classroom, through outdoor mark making props such as chalkboards or outdoor painting. Sticks can be used for drawing in sand, soil or mud.
  • Mathematical Development
    There are so many opportunities to inspire mathematical development outdoors, such as counting out acorns or conkers, pacing out distances or finding shapes in the natural world around us.

References

Otte, J. Join in Outdoor Classroom Day 2017. Nursery World.(April 2017)
http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/nursery-world/news/1160933/join-in-outdoor-classroom-day-2017

Taking Part. Why You Should Join In On Outdoor Classroom Day. Nursery World.
https://outdoorclassroomday.com/about/

Hollyhock, J. Chief Executive, Learning through Landscapes. (April 2017).
https://www.ltl.org.uk/

Outdoor Learning and Play. Learning through Landscapes.
https://www.ltl.org.uk/

National Childbirth Trust. Importance of Outdoor Play Activities for Kids
https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/why-outdoor-play-important

Benefits for Early Years of Learning Outside the Classroom. Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (Crown Copyright 2009).
http://www.lotc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Benefits-for-Early-Years-LOtC-Final-5AUG09.pdf

http://www.intothewoodsnursery.co.uk/benefits-of-outdoor-play.html
Into the Woods Outdoor Nursery

Outdoor Matters. The Early Years Foundation Stage. Effective Practice: Outdoor Learning (Crown Copyright 2007)
http://outdoormatters.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/EYFS-Effective-PracticeOutdoor-Learning.pdf

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