Play dirty; it's good for you!
October 12, 2019
We all have childhood memories of playing outdoors in nature – exploring, discovering, and imagining. If this nature play was during very early childhood, continued encounters with nature may occur even today. This is because a person’s positive exposures early in life seed interests for future similar encounters.
Nature play has a variety of developmental benefits for young children, not only physical fitness benefits but also mental and emotional health advantages. Yet research shows children spend less time outdoors in nature than ever before. Perhaps children spend less time outdoors due to time constraints, or adult concerns for safety, or media play preferences, or misperception of nature play’s importance, or any other factor. No matter the reason, children playing outdoors in nature results in less of a disconnect from our natural environment on many levels.
Here are just a few benefits of nature play on very young children. First, time in nature enhances mental focus, at times increasing attention spans and reducing stress. Second, any learning performed inside can be performed outside. Nature’s ever-changing environment offers a classroom full of wonders for all senses and learning styles. Plus, nature-based learning offers new ways to explore math, literacy, scientific inquiry, natural history and more. Third and fourth, nature play promotes empathy and a positive sense of self. By interacting with living things other than self, young children begin to develop awareness of other’s needs and affinity for ecological caring. By taking risks and caretaking actions in nature, young children begin to understand what they can and cannot do. Also, they gain awareness of just how delicate life can be.
Now we know nature play is great for children’s growth. Find out how to incorporate it into home and school life at the Early Childhood Education Seminar on Saturday morning, Nov. 16 in Tehachapi. Find us on Facebook at Learning and Edu-Care for registration information.