Cultivating Children’s Love for the Outdoors

For just a moment, think back to the most fun you had as a child. Hopefully, some of those activities took place outdoors. Chances are whatever activity you think of, it included opportunities to interact, imagine, create, and pretend. Since playtime should include elements of all of these, choosing the right environment can help outdoor play is one way to ensure that all of these opportunities are available. In this blog, we will discuss how you can cultivate a child’s love for the outdoors.

Nature offers opportunities to interact, imagine, create, pretend, and so much more – so why go outside?

Get Outside!

We can all agree, playing outdoors is a great way to keep children busy. However, getting older children off the couch and outdoors can be a challenge. That is why it helps to get children outside at an early age. Healthy habits, like outdoor play, should start when children are young.

Engaging in early opportunities to play outdoors is intrinsically connected to both cognitive and physical development. Opportunities to explore the outdoors increases a child’s knowledge of the natural world. It also helps them make emotional connections with the environment around them. Further, it helps them develop skills such as observing, classifying, comparing, predicting, and many more.

What to do Outdoors

In Learning is in Bloom: Cultivating Outdoor Explorations, Ruth Wilson (2016) recommends that as you select opportunities for children to play outside, keep a few of the following in mind,

Provide frequent, positive experience in natural environments: Children should have opportunities to engage with nature daily if possible.

Focus on experiencing versus teaching: While outdoors, allow children to use and develop skills like observation, classifying, and prediction instead of “telling” them about nature.

Respect children’s fears and follow their interests: Be attentive and allow the child to take the lead in exploring the environment around them.

Give children plenty of opportunities to choose their own activities: As you allow the child to take the lead on exploring – allow them to choose the activities that they engage in while outdoors.

Keep it simple and keep it local: You do not need a lot of space to make an engaging outdoor learning environment. A few simple, natural local materials can be used to engage children in the natural world (p.16).

Once you have set the environment, be present and in the moment. Enjoy engaging in the natural environment with the child and enjoy all of the things that you will learn as you follow their lead.

Outdoor Activity Ideas

Still wondering what you will do once you are outside? Try a few of these activities to get the experience started, but remember to follow the child’s lead:

  • Go on a scavenger hunt.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Search for a color, number, or shape in nature.
  • Use a magnifying glass to search for insects.

Get more information about cultivating learning outdoors by reading:

Wilson, Ruth PhD. (2016). Learning is in Bloom: Cultivating Outdoor Explorations. Lewisville, NC: Gryphon House, Inc.

Christina Murcin joined the ChildSavers’ Child Development Services team in 2017, accepting a position as Regional Rater. In this position, Christina works closely with the Virginia Quality Regional Coordinator to coordinate and support the implementation of Virginia’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. She ensures on-site observations occur and conducts Virginia Quality coaching visits for various programs. Christina holds current credentials in CLASS Infant/Toddler/PreK as well as ITERS and ECERS.  She has also recently accepted the role as Interim Supervisor for Central Region Infant & Toddler Specialist Network.

After attending The University of South Florida, Christina began a diverse career in education. She has taught in England, Osceola County, Duval County, and for the Department of Defense Education Agency. Christina also served as the Training and Curriculum Specialist and then the Program Director for Navy Child and Youth Programs. She enjoys helping others and has a passion for serving her local community and its children.

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