“Children learn as they play. Most importantly they learn how to learn when they play”
“Play is the highest form of research”
“Play is really the work of childhood”
I remember these quotes put up on the walls of my classroom, when I was doing Bachelors in Education. I remember integrating it my teaching methods as a teacher. I recall the long discussions with my colleagues to incorporate fun games to teach every topic. As I write I call to mind sitting on green grass with my students and pointing out living and non living things. I recall playing hopscotch with my students and measuring the sides of the squares.
But had I forgotten the importance of play as a parent?
A child is a the most powerful magnet and is grasping new information from his environment every second. His way of learning is quite fun too, he learns the play way.
As a child grows he learns through play – whether indoor or outdoors. I always thought my toddler was playing at home, while I was busy with other chores. Yes he indeed was! But I have noticed a significant change in my boy since we began to step outdoors to play.
We are not alien to the obvious benefits of outdoor play for children. It facilitates physical, mental and social development of the child, it gives more space to the child to play, it develops muscle strength, co ordination and flexibility, it builds self confidence and an attitude of problem solving, it allows him to take risks and challenges.
Apart from these benefits, following are the changes I have noticed in my baby since we started to play outdoors ( it’s only been a month yet)
He sleeps better:
Outdoor play enhances a child’s sleep in critical ways. The physically strenuous outdoor play, has improved my child’s sleep routine. Research demonstrates that natural and green setting has a calming effect and yields relaxed sleep.
He eats better:
Gone are the days, when my son’s dinner plate would lie on the table top for hours. He now holds my hand and drags me to the kitchen to serve him food. Outdoor play gives the child an opportunity to indulge in physical activities. He feels hungry as he uses up his energy running and jumping.
Being a stay at home parent, I was disillusioned that I spend time with my child. But what really counts is the quality of time spent together and not the quantity. Playing outdoors with my toddler allows me to spend time with him without distractions and interruptions. It’s been therapeutic for me to switch off the phone, give the other chores a break and spend time only playing with my child. I am sure he feels the pleasure of receiving undivided attention as well.
Love for nature:
Green scenic environment with various types of plants, trees, leaves and flowers is difficult to find in an Urban set up. Fortunately, there are a few trees and plants in our vicinity. My son is attracted to the colourful leaves and flowers and drags me along to touch and feel them. I know he has developed a closeness or love for nature because he smells the flowers and feels the leaves at home as well.
We often notice that a child cries a lot, but what we fail to notice is a child’s laughter. They laugh whole heartedly, like no one is watching. When I take my son outdoors he spends that hour smiling, laughing, giggling, jumping and hopping around. That has undoubtedly become the happiest hour of his day.
Learning beyond what I could teach
I teach him how to draw and colour, I teach the obvious shapes, alphabet and numerals, I teach him colours and I thought I was teaching enough. When we are outdoors he learns about the world. The little boy tries to slide upwards and figures out the right way to slide is downwards, he tries to pierce sticks in sand, he is able to distinguish shade from sunlight. The learning that takes place in such a setting is likely to be permanent because it was meaningful and experiential. Outdoor setting allows me to teach him various topics like colours, different kinds of insects, plants, vehicals and almost every other topic.
Pushing his own limits
I have witnessed this 18 months old, not only discover his own physical and emotional capabilities but also push his own limits. We have a small stair case near the entrance gate, he would stand there and stare at the stair case and then call out my name to help him climb the stairs. Within a few days he decided to do it himself, he fell, he cried, he stood up and tried again. He analysis his limits – can I throw this ball higher, can I slide down the bigger slide, can I run faster, can I roll on grass and so on. And he often takes the risk and tries to achieve his desired goal.
Since my son was about five months old, he has been super clingy and would want no body else but his mother. To my surprise, within a month of going outdoors to play, he has real friends. They look forward to playing together. Playing with other kids also teaches virtues like sharing, taking turns, and being kind to other’s needs.
Outdoor play allows children to be children. They need open space to run, crawl, hop, climb, swing, jump, and even fall. They need an opportunity to explore, experiment, configure, manipulate, expand, discover, invent, influence, change, and create. Let’s allow them to yell, sing, damp up, get their clothes filthy.
I have noticed a positive change in my son and highly recommend every parent to take their toddler outdoors to play. It may sound like a challenging task because of the time constraint, the cold and the bugs outside. But a little precaution and preparation is definitely worth it.
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