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Take it Outside! The Importance of Outdoor Play

Kelly-Ann Downs
Kelly-Ann Downs (2 posts) Early Years Leader and Reception Class Teacher View Profile

In recent years there has been a cultural shift in our society that has reduced the access and use of the outdoors for many young children. Contributory factors include increased concerns in relation to children’s safety and technological advances. Learning outside the classroom supports the development of healthy and active lifestyles by offering children opportunities for physical activity, freedom and movement, and promoting a sense of well-being.

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The outdoors is the very best place for young children to practice and master emerging physical skills. It is in the outdoors that children can fully and freely experience motor skills like running, leaping, jumping, climbing, balancing and where they can practise ball skills such as kicking, throwing and catching.

The outdoors has something more to offer than just physical benefits. Cognitive, social and emotional development is impacted too. Outside, children are more likely to invent games and as they do so, they're able to express themselves and learn about the world in their own way. They feel safe and in control, which promotes autonomy, decision-making, and organisational skills.

Learning outside the classroom gives children contact with the natural world and offers them experiences that are unique to outdoors, such as direct contact with the weather and the seasons. Playing and learning outside also helps children to understand and respect nature and the environment. Outdoor play also supports children’s language development, problem-solving skills and nurtures their creativity, as well as providing rich opportunities for their developing imagination, inventiveness, and resourcefulness.

The outdoor environment offers space and therefore is particularly important to those children who learn best through active movement. Very young children learn predominately through their sensory and physical experiences which supports brain development.

With this in mind, we ensure that our youngest children have lots of high-quality opportunities for play and exploration in our expansive outdoor area so that they may learn, practise and master skills across all areas of learning. At NAIS Pudong we extend our outdoor provision beyond the school grounds to green areas within our local community through our unique forest school style experience. It is through these unique and enriching interactions with nature that our children can explore and discover, experience appropriate risk, and challenge, and learn and develop in a holistic way. They become more resilient, independent and learn on a much deeper level since they are more relaxed and motivated to learn.