Today, as people are celebrating Earth Day across the country, we’d like to remind you of the many benefits of playing outside for children (and adults!) of all ages. 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 – engaging in meaningful outdoor activities has a deep impact on the healthy development of young children. Some of the most exploratory learning often takes place in nature!
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.
High-quality early childhood programs improve access to healthy foods, increase physical activity and exploration, and instill good habits early in life. NC Pre-K and Durham Early Head Start (DEHS) both work with partner child care programs to ensure that meals provided to children are balanced and nutritious. Our DEHS child care centers feature professionally designed Outdoor Learning Environments where children can learn, play and explore. Home visiting programs such as DEHS and the Smart Start-funded Healthy Families Durham collaborate with local agencies and resources to provide nutritional information and healthy food to families.
However you’re celebrating Earth Day, we hope you’ll take a moment today to help children play, explore, create and enjoy being outside!