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Pre-schoolers: Outdoor learning and physical activities

All that know me will know my passion for my work, I constantly strive to improve and provide the best learning and enjoyable environment for the children in my care.

The move from St. Mary’s Church although wasn’t foreseen was the best thing to happen for Butterflies. The rich outside environment we have directly within the grounds is proving to be as wonderful as I hoped. On top of this the adventures we are able to provide on our door step has been my dream for the children. Forest school vibes!

Pre-schoolers (aged 3 to 4)

This is taken from the NHS ADVISERY WEBSITE….. THE SCIENCE!

Pre-schoolers should spend at least 180 minutes (3 hours) a day doing a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day, including active and outdoor play. The more the better.

The 180 minutes should include at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. Children under 5 should not be inactive for long periods, except when they're asleep. Watching TV, travelling by car, bus or train, or being strapped into a buggy for long periods are not good for a child's health and development.

The values of outdoor learning

I am hoping that without parents joining us for our adventures they can gain an insight in why this is such an important and beneficial side to our Pre-School. We are not just going for a walk!

By encouraging younger children to spend more time outside and away from digital devices, you’re not only aiding your child’s physical well-being, but you’re helping them improve their emotional and intellectual well-being, too.

The benefits of outdoor play for children’s development are extensive, both in early childhood and the school-age years. Why? Because outdoor play directly impacts a child’s weight, physical strength and ability to fight off illness. Not only that, but children who spend a lot of active time outdoors in their early years generally continue to be more active as they grow.

Improved muscle strength

Did you know when you’re pushing your child in a swing, all their muscles become engaged as they figure out how to hold on, sit up and follow the movement of the swing? That’s right. What most parents think of as a repetitive, sometimes monotonous, playground activity can help young children develop muscle strength.

Improved overall health

Limiting a child’s risk of becoming obese has many long-term health implications. Children who are considered obese are at higher risk for problems like cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes and sleep apnoea. Not only that, but exposure to sunlight improves moods and strengthens immune systems. Outdoor play has also been shown to benefit children with ADHD by giving them an outlet for the activity and energy that often creates issues indoors.

Advanced motor skills

Outdoor play has also been shown to leave children with more advanced motor skills than their “indoor” peers, including coordination, balance and agility. Children who play outside are more likely to enjoy activities like walking, running and Climbing. When children are outside, they have the space to run, walk, jump, swing and throw. They can play catch. They can crawl under bushes and climb trees and hills. By allowing kids to test and stretch their physical abilities, they strengthen their bodies and become more confident in their movements.

Social Development Benefits

While there are many physical benefits to outdoor play, it provides a huge opportunity for social development in children as well. Some of the most notable benefits include:

  • Increased openness with parents and caregivers - When children are indoors, they are often in smaller spaces and competing with other children, such as schoolmates or siblings, for attention. It can get loud and overwhelming, which often causes children — especially younger ones — to be intimidated and increasingly quiet. That can prevent them from opening up and sharing with their caregivers. When children spend time outside, they generally feel less overwhelmed because they are not in a confined space and competing with others for attention. This feeling of having the physical space to move and breathe often results in a child being more willing to open up and talk about things with their parent or caregiver.

  • Improved peer-to-peer relationships - Team work and looking after each other while following rules to keep safe. Not only are children who play outside more self-aware, but their awareness of others and their feelings increase as well. Studies have even shown that children who play outdoors are less likely to bully other children. Outdoor play often requires imagination and teamwork, which helps children have positive interactions with each other. That doesn’t mean there won’t be arguments over whose turn it is to go down the slide or shoot a basket, but, in general, children who consistently play outdoors are more likely to get along with their peers.

  • Appreciation for the environment

  • Develop a sense of independence - Being outside has been shown to help children develop their sense of independence. Even though a parent is usually close by, generally children feel a sense of freedom when they’re at the park that they don’t experience elsewhere. They get the chance to explore and take limited risks without feeling like an adult is breathing down their neck. They can invent games with their friends, explore their boundaries and figure out what they’re capable of doing. The confidence that results from this will help them as they continue to learn and grow. They can try tasks and activities they wouldn’t be able to do inside and apply problem-solving strategies to questions like, “Can I climb across those monkey bars?” or “Can I reach that net if I jump high enough?”

Use of all five senses

Pre-schoolers who watch a lot of TV are only using two of their senses — sight and hearing. That can really limit their ability to process and respond to sensory stimuli they encounter as they grow. On the other hand, children who play outside are using all their senses by exploring the outdoors — perhaps even taste, as they catch snowflakes or raindrops on their tongues.


Emotional Wellbeing

In one study, 87 percent of individuals who spent time outside as a child carried a love of nature into their adult years. Of those same people, 84 percent said they still considered the environment an important priority. The reason for this is simple: By spending a lot of time outside, children learn to appreciate the environment because they have first hand knowledge of plants and animals. They’ve watched squirrels chasing each other up a tree. They’ve witnessed a sunset. They’ve caught ladybugs. They’ve planted flowers, climbed trees and explored parks.

As they grow, their fond memories of their childhood experiences lead them to more awareness and compassion to preserving the spaces they loved as children because they know the value of it.

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