WOYC: the importance of outdoor learning and play
Posted on 04.10.2014, Thursday

Engaging in meaningful outdoor activities has a deep impact on the healthy development of young children, and some of the most exploratory learning often takes place in nature. During Week of the Young Child, we’d like to celebrate the important positive impact of our outstanding Outdoor Learning Environments here in Durham.

Allowing children to explore the natural world provides a multitude of learning opportunities, and an outdoor play space can ignite a child’s learning and imagination in a way that is much different than inside the classroom. Aside from the well-known benefits of outdoor play – such as obesity prevention, learning from sensory experiences, and encouraging physical activity – there are many other far-reaching developmental benefits.

Children who are playing together outdoors, making up games, and following rules are learning to work together as a team, building creativity, and establishing sound ethics and positive attitudes. Children who plant flowers and grow vegetables are developing an appreciation for nature as well as an understanding of food systems and healthy choices.

Supports multiple development domains Research shows that children’s social, psychological, academic and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily contact with nature. According to the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University, these positive impacts include the following:

  • Supports creativity and problem solving
  • Enhances cognitive abilities
  • Improves academic performance
  • Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms
  • Increases physical activity
  • Improves nutrition
  • Improves eyesight
  • Improves social relations
  • Improves self-discipline
  • Reduces stress

Bryson’s Christian Montessori School is one example of a beautiful outdoor learning environment. This morning, volunteers from PNC’s Grow Up Great program helped plant flowers and explored the outdoors with children in the Early Head Start and NC Pre-K classes. In addition to enjoying the sunny spring weather, everyone involved left with an appreciation for the power of nature and the importance of learning through play.