This morning I was playing with my daughter, next to a big pasture with six beautiful broodmares. I was as usual mesmerized by the horses. My daughter was quiet, I glanced at her, she was completely indulged in the experience of watching a trail of ants moving between two holes in the ground. A couple minutes later she took my hand; come with me mama. She wanted to show me a particularly beautiful, dead leaf on the ground. A second later we were climbing a mountain (a big rock.)
I started to think about the benefits of daring to let children explore outdoors. I say daring, because I understand that it is a frightening concept for some parents to give their children freedom to explore outside. I am not recommending being careless in any way. Safety is very important. There should always be an adult nearby when we are talking about younger children, both for safety reasons, and to answer questions.
However, when I say explore, I mean letting the child guide the way, examine things that the child is interested in, climb up on that rock, crawl under that fence etc. The more comfortable you are outside, the more fun your child will have. It’s never too late, or too early, too start enjoying the outdoors. (An infant can start enjoying the outdoors in a baby carrier for shorter amounts of time, when he/she is a few days old, if your doctor says it’s OK!)
According to Merriam-Webster exploring is:
to look at (something) in a careful way to learn more about it : to study or analyze (something)
to talk or think about (something) in a thoughtful and detailed way
to learn about (something) by trying it
When my daughter, and I got back inside, I started to look through some of my notes from my studies at Karlstads University, Sweden. In January 2010, I graduated from a 3,5 year long education there, with the focus on early childhood development, and natural science. The whole education was about exploring the world with young children, letting nature be your classroom. I’ve always had a great love for the outdoors, but this education opened up my eyes for how beneficial it really is to spend time together outdoors with young children. I’ve always known in my heart, but now I have the tools to get even more out of the time outdoors with my own daughter.
So why should I go through the “trouble” of getting dirty with my child outside? I’m usually very tired after a long day at work.
This is why!
Some of the ways time outdoors every day helps create a sense of well being in your child is:
- All that space encourages physical activity.
- All that physical activity makes for a better nights sleep. (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This reason alone should get all parents to go outside with their kids every day, right?)
- Spending time outdoors on a regular basis helps young children understand the concept of time (day/night,) and seasons.
- A subject like math comes naturally while playing outside. It can be very exciting outdoors! Imagination is the only limit!
- Time outdoors triggers the senses, and the imagination. Sensory and physical activities together supports your child’s brain development.
- If you personally spend time together with your child outdoors you get plenty of positive subjects to talk about. All those experiences needs words. Challenging your child to develop his/her language skill, chances are your student are very eager to learn how to describe all the exciting things you see. Maybe the two of you choose to visit a library to get more information about a particularly interesting subject?
- Time in nature helps a child to respect nature, and animals.
- It helps children to develop ”thinking outside the box” problem solving skills. Things you can see, and touch are more logical to a child, compared to a theoretical problem.
From my notes, from the class Natural Science in Preschool .
(Karlstads University, Sweden. 2006-2010)
My daughter Hayley loves exploring the surroundings of the beautiful high desert ranch, in Nevada (US,) that we currently call our home.
Of course these are just a few of the benefits of spending time with your kids outdoors. What’s missing? Add your thoughts! I’d love to hear them!
PS. If you feel that this could benefit someone you know, feel free to use the share buttons!
Note: All exploring is at your own risk. Be responsible when choosing a suitable environment. Small children are moving very fast. Be alert! Bonus, if you do spend time outdoors with your child every day you get fit!