Whether they are a small baby just beginning to explore or an excitable preschooler who moves at lightning speed, all children love to play. It’s in their nature! But playing isn’t just fun and games – it's also a powerful tool full of rich learning opportunities.
Studies show that play helps children develop a wide range of lifelong skills that have a significant impact on future learning and development. Playing offers children physical, emotional, social, cognitive, creative and communicative learning opportunities. Taking play outdoors enriches a child’s learning experience even further, offering opportunities to explore, discover and appreciate the natural world while also being active, developing fine motor skills, testing physical limits, and getting messy.
“Outdoor activities play a vital role in children’s healthy growth, wellbeing, and development. The benefits of exploring and playing in outdoor environments are unique and abundant”, explains Dr Lesley Jones, Senior Advisor Pedagogy & Practice at Lifelong Learning Centres.
In addition to the physical and cognitive benefits, outdoor play can help children develop a sense of curiosity, an appreciation for nature, social relationships with educators and other children, and a sense of belonging.
Dr Lesley continues, “Playing outdoors is a great way for children to learn from real experiences. Whether it's throwing balls, sandpit play, climbing structures or playing with other children, there are so many new skills to develop and so many new experiences to discover outdoors.”
At every Lifelong Learning Centre, we offer a diverse range of outdoor activities to stimulate the imagination of little learners. Using a combination of structured activities and free play, children are encouraged to actively shape their own outdoor experiences. Read on to learn more about how we include outdoor play in our Lifelong Learning curriculum.
Running through sprinklers, splashing in puddles, “painting” walls, and squirting with water blasters – it’s no surprise that water play days are some of the most popular events in our centres! Not only is water play a fantastic way to cool off on a hot day, but it also enhances motor skills, coordination and physical fitness – all of which are key aspects of our Healthy Bodies program! Water play has also been shown to be an age-friendly way to explore early foundations of physics.
There are few experiences as exciting as harvesting strawberries that you have grown yourself. As part of our Healthy World program, many Lifelong Learning Centres have their own seasonal vegetable and herb gardens in their outdoor play areas. Learning how to grow vegetables and herbs, including caring for the growing plants and harvesting, are important skills in maintaining a Healthy World now and into the future. Nurturing a garden also helps teach children about responsibility and caring for their environment. It helps build an understanding of food production and life cycles and the intricate connections between all living things – from worms, to butterflies, to food production and people!
Whether it's throwing and kicking balls, building castles in the sand pit, climbing structures or playing with other children, there are so many new skills to develop in our playgrounds! As another component of our Healthy Bodies program, playground play encourages enhances children's physical fitness, while also offering opportunities to experiment with teamwork and explore their imagination. Rigorous physical play not only builds coordination, strength and fitness, but also helps establish healthy habits for life – helping to combat Australia’s growing concerns about children’s sedentary lifestyle and growing obesity challenges. Children exploring spatial awareness and how their body’s move in space is also an essential behaviour that supports the development of writing and reading skills. At Lifelong Learning Centres, we understand that playgrounds are vital to our centres, which is why in 2020 and 2021 we are excited to enrich our centres with new, exciting playgrounds!
Plus bush kindy, excursions, group sports, dance classes, outdoor yoga, and more. But remember – no hat, no play!
Want to learn more about our Lifelong Learning Approach and how we use outdoor play activities to create exciting learning opportunities? Find your local centre online or call 1800 CHILD CARE today to book a family tour!