The Importance of Outdoor Play for Toddlers
Giving toddlers the opportunity to freely explore and play outdoors is more important now than ever before. There are so many benefits to allowing toddlers to play outside on a daily basis. Outdoor play impacts children’s development in more ways than we may recognize. Here are just some of the reasons why outdoor play everyday is crucial to the development of our young children.
Learning about Self and the Environment
To learn about the world around us, children need to experience it first hand and take risks and learn what their physical and emotional capabilities are. They may be asking themselves inside, “how high can I swing?” “can I climb this ladder by myself?” “How will I get down if I make it to the top of this rock?” As they take risks and challenge themselves physically and emotionally. This helps build their self esteem and self confidence and recognize what they are capable of.
Physical Exercise/Gross Motor Development
Young children are able to move their bodies around outdoors in ways that we usually can’t offer in an inside environment. Having ample time to use their gross motor muscles is extremely important as their bodies and bones continue to develop and strengthen. Running, climbing, jumping, using bicycles and tricycles, and pushing/pulling heavy objects around are all important ways that toddlers practice maximum effort, gain coordination, develop balance, and strengthen these gross motor skills.
Learning about our Environment and World through Exploration
Young children’s brains develop more rapidly in the first five years of life than at any other point in their lives. They learn so much through just being outside and seeing the world around them. They see the seasons change, notice leaves on the ground that have fallen from trees, notice when puddles have turned to ice from cold winter nights, notice when trees create shade to sit under in the warmer months, and so much more. All of these observations stick with them because it was learned through doing and and in a concrete and meaningful way. This sets the stage for more learning in areas of math, science, ecology, language, geography, and so much more.
Appreciation of the Outdoors
Much of the Montessori philosophy is based around recognizing and appreciating the beauty in our environment. The outdoors is one of the most important places for toddlers to be given the opportunity to see what is going on around them and further develop their aesthetic awareness. Toddlers use their senses to explore their surroundings- touching the sand, smelling the flowers, hearing the wind rustle the leaves on the trees, and even tasting a piece of snow or ice that is found on the playground. Toddlers take in all that surrounds them and appreciate the beauty of our outdoor environment and the changes that take place in it.
Having time to interact with other children outside is much different than in the context of the Toddler Montessori classroom. Outside, children are free to use constructive play to build with one another in the sandbox, push each other on the swing, learn how to take turns and share materials, and take part in socio- dramatic play. Having the time and opportunity to develop these social skills is an incredibly important aspect of toddler development, as it strengthens their language and communication skills, and their social emotional development.