Early Childhood The importance of outdoor play

  • By Heidi Ratje
  • This article was published more than 2 years ago.
  • 22 Mar 2022

While I’m sure many of our members will ease into the recommendation to make more use of outdoor spaces, some may need a little inspiration.

Increasingly, research in Australia and internationally highlights the positive impacts for children’s physical, social and emotional development. When children are provided with increased opportunities to engage in open-ended play outdoors, it further supports their eye and motor development, balance, and ability to sense movement, action and location.

As professionals, we can use our expertise to help support children’s engagement within outdoor spaces by offering a variety of experiences that capture their imagination.

We can begin to address development issues that can crop up as children progress through their academic life. Outdoor play can benefit a child’s ability to focus, increase their stamina, support their posture, and assist their ability to self-regulate. This can be supported through creating engaging outdoor play environments within our ECEC services, not just through off-site nature programs.

As we shift our perspectives to re-examine how we plan for encouraging outdoor play, we may explore the idea of taking some more traditionally indoor experiences outside. That could include painting, drawing and playdough activities, or experimenting with natural materials. We can offer a variety of craft and construction experiences and help create dramatic play spaces.

By critically reflecting on our understanding of how children engage with play environments, we can provide space for children to run and jump, exploring how their bodies work in space. We may need to redirect the flow of play, using invitations to engage in specific ways, or by creating smaller, more intimate play spaces.

Hopefully you can further explore the benefits of outdoor space as the year unfolds, providing exciting learning opportunities that embrace our connection with nature.

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