Outdoor environments can support the various stages of development for a child and offer many learning experiences. Being outdoors, in nature, is one of the most important things that you can offer your child. When you are outside, consider giving time and thought to allowing your child to be free to experience everything that nature has to offer.
Young children are developing their gross motor skills and need to be able to move freely and with vigor. There are many opportunities for big movement outdoors. There can be structures for climbing and sliding, wagons to push, balls, swings, and carts to ride on. This equipment allows the child to develop large motor coordination. There could also be stacks of bricks or wood available to pick up and carry. You can also put these materials in a wagon or a wheelbarrow and allow your child to push them around to experience maximum effort.
Opportunities for art are also available outside. A tray with a paintbrush and a cup for water will allow your child to see what happens when he paints with water on a dry surface. They also love to draw with sidewalk chalk on the ground and make big movements while drawing.
There might also be a garden in your outdoor environment. Children love to observe and discover how plants grow. A garden gives the children something to be responsible for and in return the garden provides beautiful scenery and sometimes even food. Daily watering the garden is a great exercise for young children. If you do plant vegetables or fruit, you can pick the plants, wash them and let your child see how it tastes.
Being outdoors also offers a lot of opportunities to provide language. You can point and name things that you see in the environment, especially since your child is at a sensitive point for learning language. You can also talk about the weather. Talk about the rain, wind, or snow and what it feels like.
Going for a walk, or a hike, is another great opportunity to enjoy nature. There are many beautiful areas in our community that allow for this. Toddlers can actually walk very long distances as long as the adult walks at the child’s pace and doesn’t try and rush them.
The children have plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploring here at Walnut Farm. They enjoy riding bikes, sensory play, sliding, and running freely! We try to spend at least an hour or more outside. We consider being outdoors part of their work.
We believe that being outdoors is where children truly thrive. Having the opportunity to freely explore and work outdoors is one of the greatest things we can allow children to do. “Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when there is a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping.” Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child, Ballentine, 1967, pp. 68-69