Children Need to Play outside to build immunity
Academic activities occupy major part of the day. Also sports training often occupy children’s time to play freely.
Going from one activity to another, children tend to be transported by car. This limits the outdoor environment experience. And even limits the interaction with the community or immediate surrounding.
The time and space to play outside should be integrated in education planning and intervention, starting in day-care and kindergarten.
Today education is too focussed on what happens inside the activity room. Outdoor environment serves merely as recess time, during which children can stretch their legs and expend their energy.
How does outdoor environment and exposure help children?
Urbanisation and lifestyle apart, the number of time children go outside is also reduced during extreme weather conditions – like peak of summer or winter months.
Children tend to spend long periods in closed environments exposed to saturated air.
Also, the time spent outside matters. Anywhere between 20 – 30 minutes is insufficient. This is a very short period for children to take advantage of the benefits related to outdoor play.
The minimum recommended time is 40 minutes per day.
Encouraging learning and development outside
Contact with natural elements provides natural stimulus. It makes the child more alert. It generates interests in different things and colours. It makes children imaginative.
A flying bird, sticks, rocks, flowers, leaves soil, water, etc., are explored with curiosity and drive to learn, as they offer countless possibilities for play.
These natural elements are open-ended materials that can respond to children’s imagination and needs. Children are often seen making sand castles and decorate them with flowers and leaves.
In this process of reinvention and assigning new meaning to objects (e.g. a stick can be a magic wand, a boat or a pen), it is possible to mobilize skills related to divergent thinking, creativity, problem solving, among others.
Outdoor play and the exploration of natural elements promote education in its broadest sense.
As children fill and empty containers, several times, they explore notions related to weight, volume and time.
As children explore natural elements, they also capture the richness and diversity of Nature.
The sense of discovery and fascination influences meaningful learning. It allows for the development of an emotional connection towards the environment.
This further promotes a sense of belonging and familiarity towards Nature from an early age.