PHOTO COURTESY OF KINDERBERRY HILL
For children, the best thing about summer is the freedom to play. And while some parents worry about interrupting academics, research continues to support the importance of play; especially outdoor play. Playing outside allows children to think creatively, develop coordination and strength, nurture STEAM skills (science, technology, engineering, art and math), appreciate nature and develop social-emotional skills.
Kinderberry Hill Child Development Centers, a locally owned company, recognizes the importance of outdoor play. That is why they are introducing Outdoor Classrooms at their centers. Outdoor Classrooms are thoughtfully designed spaces that incorporate natural learning materials so that children may seamlessly continue their indoor learning in the open air.
Kinderberry Hill’s Education Coordinator Sara Reichstadt strongly believes in the many benefits of outdoor learning. She suggests parents incorporate some of these simple concepts from Kinderberry Hill’s Outdoor Classrooms at home:
Outside Block Area
When we think of blocks, we often think of Legos or wood blocks. But for a successful outdoor block area, think cool stuff. Look for interesting items that can be used for building like CDs, wood rounds, tiles, spools, seashells, pinecones, etc. These materials can continuously change based on what children find beautiful and unique.
You will need a hard surface for children to build upon such as a patio, deck or driveway. Or consider purchasing a plastic builder’s mixing tray from your local hardware store.
Big “Messy” Materials
Simply put, big messy materials require full body movement to build and create. Examples include milk crates, sheets and clothespins, cardboard boxes, long branches and even stumps. These items challenge children to think in scale to their own body. Outdoors is the best place for these materials because space is not limited and children can bring their BIG ideas to life.
An added benefit to using large items during outdoor playtime is they often inspire collaboration and teamwork to build forts, stages, trains, etc.—skills that are valuable in school and in life!
Sandboxes and Mud
Children love mud, whether getting their hands in it or poking a stick in and stirring. Consider designating an area in your backyard simply for digging and playing. Watch children gleefully create tracks, hills, and bridges and “bury stuff.”
If you consider a little mud patch an eyesore, another option is a sandbox. Add old pans, muffin tins, spoons, cups, artificial flowers, toy cars, etc. You just can’t beat these muddy, messy opportunities for creativity and engineering!
Move Art Outside
Art outdoors can be so much messier … and more fun (thankfully the garden hose is nearby!) If you have an easel, move it outside. Keep paper, markers, sidewalk chalk, paints, glitter, etc. available for designing outside.
Better yet, explore nature through art by gathering natural loose parts like sticks, acorns, pinecones, seeds, rocks, etc. Children enjoy lining these up, making patterns, and creating pictures to tell stories.
The many benefits of outdoor play are too numerous to list, but most importantly, it’s really fun! To learn more about Kinderberry Hill’s outdoor classrooms, visit www.kinderberryhill.com.