Wonders of the Outdoor Learning Environment

Why we need to go outdoors?

Children are natural explorers and investigators of the world around them. Many researches and theorists observe that there is a profound impact of outdoor play on children’s development that carries through the years. The word ‘Kindergarten’ comes from the German word meaning “children’s garden,” and pioneering educator Friedrich Froebel paved the way to insights of the spiritual and emotional link to nature and children’s development.

 

Educational settings like Green Schools and forest schools as well as centres all across the globe are gaining popularity in the way they integrate a holistic approach to learning through exploring, experimenting and adapting to nature and the environment around them. By providing access to the outdoors, children would develop a sense of understanding and respect towards their link to the natural world. It helps boost their self-confidence to explore and take risks in a safe environment, which in turn develops their problem-solving and critical thinking skills as they navigate their emotions, negotiate spaces as well as between peers, and overcome physical obstacles. Children learn to vocalise and express their thoughts, feelings and ideas as they play in a group, improving their language, communication and social skills. The cognitive and physical aspects linked to the outdoors are truly far reaching.

 

However, another main reason and unique difference to the question ‘why outdoors?’ is the scientific effect of being outside has on young ones. Studies suggests there is a correlation that being outdoors help regulate a calmer social-emotional nature in growing and learning children, reducing anxiety and antisocial behaviour as well as helps relieve stress and overstimulation in particularly struggling children. Children are given the natural exposure to practical life skills and experiences through projects and outdoor activities. In the article by Stuart Lester and Martin Maudsley: Play, Naturally – A review of children’s natural play, they state:

“The powerful combination of a diversity of play experiences and direct contact with nature has direct benefits for children’s physical, mental and emotional health. Free play opportunities in natural settings offer possibilities for restoration, and hence, well-being.”

In essence, taking the learning outdoors has a direct impact and improves on the children’s physical, social, cognitive and emotional well-being. So let’s play outdoors!

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