Tomorrow is National Step in a Puddle Day and Splash your Friend. Yes. Yes it really is. No one seems to know who or why this day was created, but who cares? It’s a day to go outdoors and enjoy just being there. So what if we get a little rain – we won’t melt!
This makes me think about one part of child care that seems to elude many people. The value of the outdoors. Our modern children get so little time outside. They are often in front of a TV or playing games on their phones. Phones? I sure didn’t have a phone when I was a kid (that fact that they didn’t exist back then being irrelevant).
But the point is, our children simply don’t get enough outdoor time!
Last Child in the Woods (2005, Louv), the author refers to this as Nature Deficit Disorder. So many of the negative behaviors we see can be controlled, even eliminated, by a visit to the natural world. Louv says that “Nature time can literally bring us to our senses”. Sitting in front of a screen dulls all of the senses – getting outside revitalizes them. Do you remember how good it smells right after the first rain? Or the taste of a snowflake on your tongue? You cannot replicate those experiences indoors.
Being outdoors gives children a change to really exercise, to step away from the petri dish of germs multiplying inside, and to develop in all those areas we as teachers strive to stimulate.
The physical activity outdoors develops large muscles and coordination. It gives children a change to physically understand words like run, stomp, climb, building conceptual understanding and vocabulary. How many of you would tell a child in the classroom, “Catch the ball”? But outdoors you can – and all those activities contribute to the essential brain development of a young child.
And there are so many ways to use the outdoors in your curriculum! Here are just a few ideas. I’m sure a google search or pintrest check will supply a myriad of ideas to pull from.
Science – get out the magnifying glasses and check along the fence line. If you are fortunate enough to be near a park with a pond or a stream, check along the water line (wear boots). There are a lot of little bugs to watch and talk about what they are doing and even to hypothesize why they are doing it.
Language – while you are hypothesizing the insect activity, words are being used that might not otherwise be used. Concepts are being considered that required specific language.
Social – What are the bugs doing? Are they working? Who else works? Conversations among the children – conversations sparked by one question by you and then you being quiet and listening – help children to interact with each other. As they discuss their own lives, the lives of the bugs become more relatable to the children’s lives and therefore make more sense to them.
You can bring your art activities, your dramatic play, blocks, everything outdoors. Hold your class in the park. Even just sitting by the fence and reading a story has an entirely different effect on a child than sitting in the classroom circle. In honor of Step in a Puddle day, Give it a try! And then go stomp in some puddles!
© 2018 Early Learning Tools NW
Here is a list of books you might enjoy reading about children and the great outdoors
Hanscom, Angela J. (2016) Balanced and Barefoot
Louv, Richard. (2006) The Last Child in the Woods
Louv, Richard. (2016) Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature Rich Life
Louv, Richard (2016) The Nature Principle
Sampson, Scott. (2016) How to Raise a Wild Child
Selhub, Eva M. & Alan Logan. (2014) Your Brain on Nature
Sobel, David, et. al. (2015) Nature Preschool and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning
Ward, Jennifer. (2008) I Love Dirt