The Benefits of Playing in Nature for Daycare Children

 Are you interested in helping your daycare children become calmer? Are you interested in elevating their general mood and decreasing their frustration level? Are you interested in giving them a chance to learn about science and math?  Are you interested in providing more physical activity into their day? Are you interested in having your daycare children consume more healthy foods?  Are you interested in promoting cooperation within your group?  There is a wonderfully easy, one step solution to all these points….bring your daycare children to nature.

Not all of us are lucky enough to live on a piece of land which includes a piece of wilderness but there are others ways to experience a natural setting within the city.  Find a park, nature trail, beach or forest near your house.  It doesn’t have to be a large spot, it just needs to be a safe place for the children to explore.

At first you will need to act as the children’s guide when you visit nature.  Show them how to turn over rocks to find bugs, how to collect stones to make a wall and how to draw in the dirt with a stick.  The children will quickly catch on if you show them how to make a circle out of stones.  They can make a doorway to enter and different rooms in their play stone house.  From here the children’s ideas and imagination will take over and they will learn and discover at their own pace.

Children learn basic concepts such as heavy and light from carrying rocks and stones.  They learn about the vegetation and ecology and they learn about themselves while interacting in a natural environemnt.  The natural world sparks their interest and they wonder about the squirrels and the birds they see. Watching the seasonal changes that happen to a patch of wilderness helps children understand the cycles of nature.  Children who come to love a tiny piece of wilderness will readily understand how important it is to take care of the plants and animals that live there.  This transfers to a global understanding of taking care of our natural resources as they mature.

When children are out in nature they tend to play actively.  They work together to build tiny forts and they get caught up in the physical activity involved.  They love to pursue a purposeful goal within a group.  This strongly encourages communication and cooperation.  It also is hard work and it burns off restlessness.  Working towards a common goal helps switch a child’s focus from themselves and possibily a negative perspective towards the end product of the group.  Helping others and being recognized for your contribution is a wonderful way to build a strong self-concept and a positive outlook on life.

When children break for a snack while they are ouside two things often happen.  They eat whatever you put in front of them and they don’t spend a lot of time complaining.  Hard physical work creates an appetite and the only food available is the food you brought.  Therefore, children will often eat it because they are hungry and focused on telling you about what they made or discovered.  Food also tends to taste better outdoors when you eat it picnic style!

When you return from your nature outing notice the general mood and activity level of the children.  They will be calmer, more focused and chances are they will sleep better at nap time.  Spending time in nature is so simple and has profound and lasting effects on children.  I encourage you to find your own piece of nature close to your home and explore it as often as possible.  I’ve never heard a child say, “I’m bored”, while out in nature.

Comments

  1. I love this post!

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