“There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes”
– old Scandinavian saying
At the Clubhouse’s Corner Enrichment Program, outside play is more than just being outside. It is part of our curriculum and the experience of coming to our program. We integrate outside play into our daily routine and when we miss a day…we truly miss a day.
We have two guiding principles for outside play. Number one- the children love to be outside and number two- they need to be outside. Everyday we prepare the children for outside play. Some days this preparation may only take five minutes because they only need a jacket. Other days it can take 10-15 minutes because teaching 12 children how to get snow pants, snow boots, hats, and gloves on, takes time. The process can, at times, take longer than the actual playing, but guess what, it is worth it! During this preparation time, children are developing confidence and independence skills. They also deepen their understanding of community and being part of a group, as they assist others getting ready. Most of the children are able to zip independently and are able to help a friend. Now, all we need is… SNOW! (Sorry, I know most of us dread the idea…but the kiddos LOVE it)
The children gain experiences outside that cannot naturally occur in the classroom. The growth, development and learning that comes from digging in the snow, jumping over puddles, and collecting spikey balls- only to watch them roll down the slide over and over again- is only experienced by being outside. They are happy outside. The giggles that we hear are constant and contagious. They are free outside and we hear it in their voices.
The risks children take outside are different from the ones they take inside. There is something about the expanse of the outdoors that gives children a sense of wonder and confidence. There are physical risks, such as trying the monkey bars or jumping from the steps and there are social risks children take as well. Social groups can shift while they play outside. A child who is on the cusp of more social play looks for interactions outside. They seek out the children who are running around the equipment playing the modern day equivalent of “cops and robbers.” These new groups will challenge and support each other, and in the process they gain confidence and strengthen social connections.
Finally, children can just be! They do not need an excuse to lay in the grass, they just do it. They are unrestrained and free. This is the most rewarding piece of all.
What happens during outside play
- Gross motor development: running, jumping, skipping, swinging, digging in the dirt, and climbing all encourage large/ gross motor development.
- Fine motor development: picking up wood chips, acorns, or bugs, sorting/stacking rocks, and sidewalk chalk drawings
- Social Skills: social language, conflict resolution, flexibility, cooperation, transitioning between play ideas, and turn taking.
- Self help skills: What do you do when you get hurt? How do you solve a problem with a peer? What happens if you get half way across the monkey bars and can’t make it the rest of the way? We work with all the children to build their confidence and self- help skills. Every child should know how to answer these questions.
- Risk assessment: Children learn to assess risk while playing outside. They make decisions about how far to “push” themselves physically and socially all while playing and exploring.
- Imaginary play: mud pies, fairy houses, animal kingdoms, campfires for making smore’s, and superhero play. These are themes that develop and expansion of play ideas that can happen during outside play. Let your imagination go!
- Appreciation for nature: learning respect for nature, cherishing the tiny holes in the ground that “might be” a mouse house, watching squirrels dig holes and jump from tree to tree, and looking for animal tracks in the snow. And finally, truly experiencing the change in the seasons.