BENEFITS OF OUTDOOR PLAY
Mud Kitchens are not just for summer, and here is why...
The Importance of Outdoor Play in Winter
During the colder months, it is common for children to be restricted to indoor play at home, and only wanting or allowed to play outdoors when it is warm and sunny. Many parents worry that their children will not like being outside in the cold, or that they will get sick from being outside in the cold fresh air. For this very reason, it is specifically important that children enjoy outdoor activities in their home life and their early childhood education.
Playing outside in autumn, winter, and early spring, each present their own unique opportunities for exploration and learning, and is so important for children's ongoing development. That being so, outdoor play should be embraced in all types of weather.
The Most Common Winter Myth Dispelled
"My child will get poorly if they play outdoors in the cold". Most adults associate winter with getting colds and bugs. However, it is not exposure to the cold that cause these viruses, it is likely to be increased exposure to poorly ventilated indoor environments where bacteria and viruses live. By encouraging outdoor play during the colder months, children gain much needed exposure to fresh air and Vitamin D, while avoiding bacteria and germs.
Why Outdoor Winter Play is Important
During the spring and summer, children become familiar with a warm climate, bright green foliage and beautiful flowers in bud then bloom. As the seasons change, they come to see the outdoors differently as characteristics change; leaves turning golden before falling, pine cones, conkers and ice. These changes provide children with new experiences and opportunities, such as learning about the seasons, the life cycles of plants, and also provide new foraging ingredients. Through outdoor play in the winter, children also observe and learn to see these changes to their environment.
The emotional benefits of outdoor play
Outdoor activities promote emotional health benefits, such as self-confidence and the ability to assess risks. By encouraging outdoor play in the winter, children learn to dress warmly, identify hazards such as slippery surfaces, and moderate their behaviour to ensure their safety. Through winter play, children learn to explore, work together, and find harmony in endless problem-solving opportunities.
The social benefits of outdoor play
Finally, playing outdoors with others encourages social development and collaboration. This is because play teaches children how to work together in groups, which includes learning to share, negotiate, and solve conflict.
Social outdoor play also provides children the opportunity to exercise and stretch their imaginations. In winter, the physical changes to the outdoor environment provide children with new opportunities for winter-themed play.
Children who are encouraged to explore through play are also more likely to learn new skills and overcome challenges, which promotes self-confidence, resilience, and self-advocacy. The development of these social skills are highly important to the development of healthy social relationships, communication skills, and a strong sense of self.