In today’s post, we take a look at the importance of outdoor play for children in their early years. Indeed, there are many benefits, as we’ll see …
Outdoor play is great fun for children — of course — and that should not be overlooked as a benefit. After all, any healthy childhood should be about adventurous play and fun just as much as it should be about learning. However, as we all know, playing and learning are very closely interlinked. That is why outstanding childcare settings like Little Acorn Nursery firmly believe in learning through play.
Having fun anywhere, but particularly outdoors in the fresh air, will help children’s wellbeing in terms of mental and spiritual health too. Playing outdoors will lift the spirits and give children a myriad of opportunities for fun, learning, self-improvement and physical wellbeing. Such activity releases the hormone cortisol in the brain and that helps to naturally reduce stress and anxiety.
Children benefit from the simple act of being outdoors.
Playing outside is also a healthy release from things like TV, electronic screens and, potentially, from an otherwise more sedentary lifestyle. Away from the confines of the indoors, outdoor play allows children the freedom to move about more freely. Outside, they’ll learn to navigate spaces, obstacles and play equipment, all the time improving spatial awareness, coordination, balance and gross motor skills. These include running, jumping, climbing and so on. Their fitness levels will naturally improve too, as they build stamina, muscle and strength. This is all incredibly good for them.
Outdoor play is also a feast for the senses. During the early years, sensory experiences are very important, not least for their brain development. Playing outdoors will give them many sensory opportunities, for example in terms of what they hear, see, feel, touch and smell.
Outdoor play teaches children to be creative, inventing adventures and challenges with their friends, all the time stimulating their brains and minds just as much as their bodies. They benefit socially too, of course, growing closer bonds with their peers (and supervising adults), learning social skills like communication, understanding right from wrong, cooperation, and so on.
Outdoor Play at Little Acorns Nursery
At Little Acorns, we understand the importance of outdoor play. Little ones, from the age of two have access to our outdoor gardens and play areas — all under close supervision, of course. We have invested heavily in a whole range of exciting, stimulating and educational outdoor facilities for the children to explore, play with and learn from. As they do, they will not only learn but they’ll also hone fine and gross motor skills, improve coordination and balance, improve physical fitness, enhance social skills and build friendships. They will also soon become better at recognising and balancing risk, they’ll become more independent as they move around freely. They’ll also learn from mistakes. Their self-confidence and self-esteem will also naturally grow. These are all incredibly important skills that will stand them in good stead as they gradually approach the age where they’ll leave us to move on to school.
“Physical activity is vital in children’s all-round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives” (DfE — Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage)
Taking outdoor experiences for little ones even further, Little Acorns regularly takes children on outings, including to local parks. More importantly, though, it was one of the first nurseries/pre-schools to introduce Forest School to Central Lancashire. This is the ultimate outdoor experience for under-fives and teaches them so much about the natural world — and also about themselves. As well as learning a huge amount about nature, flora, fauna, the seasons and about playing and learning in the Great Outdoors, Forest School helps them learn additional skills like problem-solving, working in teams, leadership, resilience, empathy, caring for the environment, personal responsibility and so much more. Learn more in our Ultimate Guide to Forest School here.
A recent UK study found that just 5 minutes of outdoor exercise per day, in a natural environment, improves the wellbeing, mental health and self-esteem of youngsters.
Outdoor Play Supports the EYFS Curriculum
All these outdoor activities also support the early years curriculum. Outdoor playing and learning covers many of the areas outlined in the Early Years Foundation Stage (‘EYFS’) learning and development framework, which is prescribed for all childcare settings in England. Specifically, outdoor play helps children in at least four of the seven key areas of the EYFS including:
- helping immensely with ‘Physical Development‘, one of the ‘prime’ areas of focus within the EYFS;
- helping with ‘Communication & Language Development’, another prime area in the EYFS;
- supporting ‘Personal, Social and Emotional Development‘ (PSED), the third of the three prime areas of the EYFS;
- contributing greatly to ‘Understanding the World‘, one of the specific areas within the EYFS framework.
- Outdoor play can even help children with ‘Mathematics‘ (another specific area of the EYFS) in some situations.
(Learn more about the Early Years Foundation Stage framework and curriculum here).
Clearly, outdoor play is hugely beneficial to children— in a multitude of ways — so, we encourage parents, carers or guardians to take the benefits of outdoor play into consideration for children under their care.
Outdoor Play at our Nursery & Forest School in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley
Our outstanding Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods is also a Forest School, giving under-five children the very best start in life. Childcare in the Chorley, Central Lancashire region simply doesn’t get any better than at Little Acorns, as recognised independently by an Excellent Ofsted rating and an incredible nursery award. We’re also near Clayton Green and Clayton Brook, so if you are looking for the best nursery and pre-school in any of these areas, please get in touch. We’d love to show you and your child around, so you can see the setting in action for yourselves.