We believe in the importance of outdoor play
At Sunflower we offer children the time and space to explore the outdoors in our large, secure garden.
Our Active Play policy states that we spend at least 20 minutes outside every day, however we always try for much more than this, as after 20 minutes the children have only really just begun their explorations!
Outdoor play enables young children to learn lots and lots and lots of things about the world. How does ice feel and sound? Can sticks stand up in sand? How do plants grow? How does mud feel? Why do we slide down instead of up? How do I make my tricycle go faster? How does the overhang of the building create cool shade from the sun? What does a tomato smell and taste like? What does a chrysalis change into? Do butterflies have to learn to fly? Much of what a child learns outside can be learned in a variety of other ways, but learning it outside is particularly effective—and certainly more fun! In the outside playground children can learn math, science, ecology, gardening, ornithology, construction, farming, vocabulary, the seasons, the various times of the day, and all about the local weather. Not only do children learn lots of basic and fundamental information about how the world works in a very effective manner, they are more likely to remember what they learned because it was concrete and personally meaningful (Ormrod, 1997).
To learn about their own physical and emotional capabilities, children must push their limits. How high can I swing? Do I dare go down the slide? How high can I climb? Can I go down the slide headfirst? To learn about the physical world, the child must experiment with the physical world. Can I slide on the sand? Can I roll on grass? What happens when I throw a piece of wood into the pond? Is cement hard or soft to fall on? An essential task of development is appreciating how we fit into the natural order of things—animals, plants, the weather, and so on. To what extent does nature care for us by providing water, shade, soft surfaces, and sweet-smelling flowers? And to what extent does it present problems, such as hard surfaces, the hot sun, and thorns on bushes? We can discover this relationship with the natural world only by experiencing it as we grow up, develop, and interact with the natural environment.
Other benefits of outdoor play
Physical skills are important for growth, physical coordination and the movement of the body. When children play outdoors they increase their ability to balance, jump, climb, throw, run and skip.
We are inspired by Reggio, and at the heart of this philosophy is the idea of ‘community’. Outdoor play fosters positive contributions to our school communty not only via collaborative efforts to look after our garden, but also because of the myriad opportunities to collaborate on BIG projects, moving big and heavy things from place to place, and exploring, challenging, creating, risk taking as a group.
Risky play in early childhood can help develop a child’s self-confidence, resilience, executive functioning abilities and even risk-management skills. And Brussoni’s work in injury prevention research shows that engaging in risky play can actually reduce the risk of injury, too.
The same ideas around community building outdoors lead in to learning about citizenship. What kind of citizens do we hope our children become? Kind, collaborative, empathetic and aware of their impact on the world may just be a few things that we hope for them. All of these