THE IMPORTANCE OF OUTDOOR PLAY FOR CHILDREN
The playground, for the child, is a place to let off some steam. A place where they can just be kids. In good outdoor playgrounds, there is sufficient space for the child to engagement in a range of expressiveness. He or she can make a mess, jump, scream while exploring the natural world. Various things such as play area design, safety issues, play equipment and so on, are all instrumental in determining the quality of a playground for kids from infancy to about eight years of age. It is important to develop a disposition for outdoor recreation in children. Also, playing outdoors should not be made too academic or teacher controlled for that matter.
PURPOSE OF OUTDOOR PLAY
Outdoor play is important for young children in early childhood programs as well as schools, for two fundamental reasons. Firstly, a great number of the developmental tasks which kids have to achieve, like exploring, fine and gross motor development and so on, can be learned rather well, through outdoor play. The second reason is that, due to the influx of technology and modern advancements as well as busy parents, unsafe neighborhoods, elimination of recess as well as academic standards which push more developmentally inappropriate academics into the early childhood programs, a lot of time is being taken from the outdoor play. The sections below - based on Wardle, 1996-2003 - describe to us, the main reasons why outdoor play is necessary for a young child's healthy development.
It is important for kids to develop large and small motor skills as well as cardiovascular endurance. A comprehensive discussion provided by Gallahue (1993), shows us the motor development and movement skill acquisition which needs to be encouraged in outdoor playgrounds. Also, in order to address the growing obesity problem, extensive physical activity has to be done. Outdoor play is an important feature of most childhoods. As said by Lord Nuffield, the best preparation for adulthood Is to have a full, enjoyable childhood. That about sums it up.
LEARNING ABOUT THE WORLD
Learning about the world at an early age is made possible by outdoor play. What does ice feel like? How do plants grow? Why is it that we slide up rather than down? Do butterflies learn to fly at a point or do they just know? Granted, these questions can be answered in other ways, but when the learning occurs outside, it is very effective and also, more fun. Children are capable of learning things like math, science, farming, vocabulary, seasons, ecology and all about the weather and so on, in the outside playground. Aside from learning these fundamental things, children are also more likely to remember these things they learned because, it was personally meaningful and concrete to them (Ormrod, 1997).
LEARNING ABOUT SELF AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Learning about their pets oral physical & emotional abilities, kids have to push their own limits. Questions like "how high can I swing? Can I go down the slide headfirst? Need to be answered. To learn about the physical world, the child has to experiment. Questions like, can I roll on grass? Is cement hard or soft to fall on? Also, need to be answered. It is an important task of development when we learn to appreciate how we fit into the natural order. Interacting with our environment and nature, helps us quickly grasp what the natural world really means to us.
THE SURPLUS-ENERGY THEORY
The surplus-energy theory of play is one that suggests that play is a means by which people release pent-up energy which has collected over a period of time. And a lot of administrators and teachers are of the opinion that after intense - usually inactive - academic pursuits in the class, kids should be allowed to "let off steam". Some educators also believe, to an extent, that playing outside allows kids to "recharge their batteries". This theory and others like it view playing outside as an important part of academic learning rather than its own separate activity.
For those who work with young kids in early childhood programs, you are most likely aware of how fast bacteria and viruses can spread in such an environment. An effective way of reducing this spread is the introduction of fresh air. Lots of it. Playing outside allows the bacteria and other germs to spread out and dissipate while enabling children to get fresh air and exercise, leaving them less constrained that they are in the classroom (Aronson, 2002).
Playing outside allows children to seek out an activity and fresh air in the process. Outdoor okay helps to develop our disposition for the outdoors, for physical activity and also towards environmental care. Children who engage in more physical activity in school are more energetic at home while those who get little to no active physical activity engage in a more sedentary behavior when they get home (Dale, Corbin & Dale, 2000). Those children who learn to enjoy the outdoors are more likely to become adults who enjoy things like hiking, gardening, and the likes. As obesity becomes an increasing national concern, this becomes a greater concern. Also, we all need to care and protect our environment.
ALLOWING CHILDREN TO BE CHILDREN
Childhood is basically about using open spaces to achieve childhood needs like yelling, running, rolling, hiding and generally making a mess. These things cannot occur indoors and it is important for children to have them. Outdoor environments help a child achieve his or her basic needs for freedom, adventure, risk-taking and just being a child (Greenman, 1993).
ENCOURAGING DIFFERENT KINDS OF PHYSICAL PLAY
Generally, it is important for physical play to be encouraged by making available, climbing equipment, swings, tricycle paths and the likes on which preschoolers can run and crawl and infants or toddlers can enjoy by rolling, lying or crawling. Climbing equipment intended for toddlers and infants should be basic and include a crawling tunnel, small steps as well as a slide. Toddlers are not very sure of their fit, so one needs to pay special attention to barriers, like railings. Slopy areas help children learn to adjust their balance on different surfaces. While it is important to support develop motor skills like fine and gross motor development, it is even more important to encourage the development of brain and nerve functions and growth water play.
Constructive play, according to research, is the average preschooler's favorite kind of play most likely because they can, and do control the process (Ihn, 1998). This type of play is encouraged by using sand and water play, availing a space for art, woodwork, and blocks, wheeled toys and the likes, all over the playground.
It is important for children to develop social skills and they need to be given ample opportunities to develop these skills, pushing each other on swings, pulling each other on wagons and so on. The physical, constructive and sociodramatic play also involved social play as well, especially when the play equipment involves more than one child.
The repayment structure
Good playgrounds have playhouses, forts and other structures which children can adapt, change, and impose their own meaning on in order to expand their imagination. Structures like this, encourage rich sociodramatic play and are an ideal place for the playground to reflect the cultures of the individual children making use of it.
GAMES WITH RULES
Popular games like Drop the Hanky, Red Light-Green Light, Simon Says and so on, are simple games with rules and are the highest level of cognitive play (Piaget, 1962).
OUTDOOR PLAY ADVOCACY
According to Sutterby and Frost (2002FD), there are too many educators, politicians, and parents who believe that outdoor play, takes time away from academic activities. Due to this misconception, recess and physical education is limited or completely removed in many schools.
Also, programs that encourage outdoor play, usually focus more on learning cognitive as well as academic skills rather than supporting necessary social interactions and physical pursuits. This problem is mainly due to the adoption of academic standards by many State departments of education, the move to accountability and also, the No Child Left Behind initiative of the Bush Administration.