What does “Outdoor Play” mean exactly? Playing outside? Cycling a bike? Splashing in puddles? Yes, but it is also so much more!
DID YOU KNOW that you are encouraging a child’s understanding of the world by asking “Do you NEED your coat today!” Or that you are developing a child’s hand eye coordination (needed for writing) by asking them to point at an aeroplane in the sky!
But what are the obstacles for you as a parent in accessing Outdoor Play?
Safety? Time? Sickness? “Irish” Weather? Equipment?
Now, think back and ask yourself:
“Did you drink water from the garden tap and survive?”
Outdoor Play plays an important part in a child’s whole development and here’s a few examples why…
Encouraging and developing:
1. Self help skills like fastening coats, putting on shoes.
2. Coping with conflict and learning about consequences of actions
3. Extra opportunities to take risks with and without adult support
4. Freedom to run and shout, express feelings
TOP TIP: Imagine a child colouring on a piece of paper out in the garden. A gentle breeze comes along and tries to blow the piece of paper away. You are not there to catch the page. How does a child know to hold a piece of paper down with one hand and colour with the other?
There are lots of opportunities for developing the
1. Use and understanding of movement vocabulary – “in” “on” “under”
2. Early reading skills – by seeing and understanding that print carries meaning. road signs, parking, tickets, bus stop
3. Listening and memory skills TOP TIP: Next time you are outside with your child – even walking from the house to the car – ask your child to list 3 things that they can hear and 3 things they can see. Are they different to what you can hear and see?
We are surrounded by maths without even knowing it:
1. Counting skills e.g. steps, lampposts, yellow reg cars!
2. Shape & size
3. Quantities – e.g. when playing with sand & water or planting
4. Measurement of distances
5. Observing patterns – e.g. Leaves, webs, cracks on path
6. Make “active” patterns – eg. hop, jump, hop, jump
TOP TIP: Do you still avoid walking on the cracks in the path in case you’ll fall in! Or how many lampposts/trees are there from your house to the end of the road? How many bricks are there in the pillar of your house?
The world is all around us is so interesting…
1. Observing & investigating living things – taking care of a pet
2. Growth and understanding the passing of time -Plant seeds
3. Observe changes in seasons and weather
4. Using & investigating their senses
TOP TIP: Stop and smell the flowers, allow children to run their fingers or sticks along railings-what sound does it make, kick through the autumn leaves or stomp on the crunchy ones, make rubbings of tree bark and their surfaces.
Of course we all associate our Physical Development with outdoors:
1. Hopping, jumping, climbing, running, skipping, throwing and catching…need I go on!
2. Abilities to steer, dodge, push and pull wheeled toys e.g. bike
3. More acute physical development by pegging out washing on a line, watering plants
Outdoor Play shouldn’t be an activity we dread or feel under pressure to do. As with most things – little and often is as good as if not better than one grand gesture!
Todd’s Tip: When you arrive home in the car why not stroll to the top of the road before going into the house – your coats are already on! Talk about what you see, hear and stop and smell the roses!
Here are some simple games and opportunities you may be able to work into your day:
“I spy with my little eye” or
“I hear with my little ear…”
Feeding the birds
Sand – a lunch box and lid in the garden/patio
Secret Sound Saturday (what can you hear)
Remember it’s often the process not the project that we learn from. Enjoy yourselves!
Giving you “a helping hand in those formative years”
Aisling Ni Dhoibhilin is a qualified childcare professional & formative years specialist. Aisling has a passion for all things “Early Years” and supporting parents and families in those formative years. With 15years childcare experience behind her; Aisling is currently managing The Toddler Inn crèche & Preschool in Dublin 7.