Nature is one of our greatest learning tools, as it influences the way we approach teaching and developing a child’s knowledge, wellbeing and sense of self.
As parents and early childhood educators, we’re always hearing about the importance of limiting our children’s ‘screen time’, and with technology at home, in schools and throughout the community, being in the outdoors, away from certain technology is more crucial than ever.
Playing outside offers children a sense of freedom that only nature and fresh air can, and when they’re given the time for unstructured play in the ‘good ole outdoors’, they also gain a little more independence and inner strength, that can be drawn upon during times of quiet reflection and calmness.
Being able to enjoy these times alone, without distractions, is a useful skill that’s quickly diminishing along with the time it takes to hold a short attention span while using fast technology and machines.
But nature isn’t just good for ‘going wild’.
It also provides a means for children be taught through more structured activities, and to put their learning into action.
By using our outdoor space at Joseph Banks Education & Childcare to intentionally teach skills that are often associated with indoor environments, we allow for a more inclusive community, and for children to learn in a way that has meaning to them.
A few potential learning benefits, gained from spending time in an ‘outdoor classroom’ are:
- Developing an environmental identity and consciousness: Children need to be provided the natural environment to understand their connection and contribution to their world.
- Developing control, mastery and manipulation of loose parts and construction of natural spaces: Children are more free outdoors to develop fine & gross motor skills, using their imagination, while taking the first steps into pre maths, science and technology.
- Developing different ways of moving, which improves coordination: Through outdoor games and activities, such as running, climbing and estimating distances, children not only gain the skills required for pre maths, but they also develop better muscle control and overall strength.
- Practicing risk taking and problem solving: Because outdoor spaces are often more varied and less structured than indoor spaces, children are more likely to encounter opportunities for decision making, problem solving, creative thinking, and are more likely to develop responsible attitudes toward ‘risk’, because they have more chances to experience dealing with uncertain situations.
- Socialisation and engagement: Many outdoor play activities are social, which promote the learning of vital social skills, such as turn-taking, sharing, negotiation and leadership. Within these types of activities, children have more opportunities to stay interested and engaged in what they’re doing, which in turn, strengthens and promotes competency and mastery of skills.
- Instilling a sense of wonder and stimulating creativity: There are endless opportunities outdoors, to capture the imagination and perform symbolic play, which are an integral part of every child’s development and should be nurtured in all environments.
Children’s experiences in the outdoor environment affect all aspects of their being, from their bodies’ wellbeing, to their minds’ curiosity. At Early Birds Education & Childcare, we strongly believe children must be provided the opportunity to learn using nature’s tools, in order to develop into a well rounded, confident and involved learner.
As Early Birds Educator and Joseph Banks Centre Director, Lara Van Ling says, “supporting a child’s sense of self and recognising independence, interdependence and connectedness with their world, culture and beliefs, can only truly be achieved once a child has been given the opportunity to participate in decision making at home, in their educational setting, in the greater community and being in their natural environment.’