Playing outside, rain or shine, is so important and beneficial to children! At my preschool, we go outside to play and learn every single day. Here are ten things children learning by playing outside.
While preschoolers are built to move, playing outside is not just to get the wiggles out of my students. Being outside, even in free play, gives my preschoolers opportunities to learn things I can’t always offer inside. The fresh air is good for them, as is the open space and the limitless possibilities for different kinds of play.
Ten Things Children Learn By Playing Outside
My preschoolers run, jump, skip, climb, swing and do all sorts of others things to get their heart rate up. They learn at an early age that exercise is good for us and that it makes our bodies healthy and strong. They learn it is fun!
Whether climbing up a slide or ladder, learning to pump on the swings or doing the monkey bars, my preschoolers learn they can do things are are physically demanding and difficult. Playing outside gives them opportunities to learn and practice gross motor skills that are difficult to reinforce inside.
I find that those children who pretend play outside are using knowledge about concepts they have learned inside. The above preschooler is looking for asteroids in the night sky. Other times the telescope is used to spy a pirate ship or to hose down a house fire.
Playing outside gives children more opportunities solve social problems within the preschool class. The girls above compromised and decided to take turns with the pink ball, so they both had equal time with it. I gladly sat back and watched the negotiations play out in a positive way.
There’s no way we could have built a ramp the size of the slide inside the house. These boys needed the slide to extend their knowledge of cause and effect, to answer their “If I…then will it…?” questions.
While is may seem like children act on impulse, playing outside gives children opportunities to make and explore new plans. They assign roles and jobs to one another in their play, and they talk through how their play should be executed. These preschoolers are deciding the best order to roll the balls down the slide.
All those crazy noises and wiggles children have to keep bottled up inside are let on the loose while playing outside. Playing outdoors is a good place, and a safe place, to be really, really silly, just for the sake of being silly. When preschoolers come back inside from letting out their sillies outside, their learning and indoor play is more focused.
They learn, in a completely natural way, what makes a good friend. They learn to include one another and help each other. They learn to share and take turns. They learn to compromise.
Just like indoor play includes learning how to clean up, so does outside play. The buckets and shovels need to be put back in the sandbox. The dump trucks need to be pushed back to the patio and the balls need to be put back into the bin.
Children learn not to give up.
While it’s not the same as persevering through difficult math facts, playing outside teaches children not to give up on the difficult things and offering lots of opportunities to practice. This preschooler worked for a good five minutes, trying to throw the ball onto the play fort. The challenge was getting the ball just high enough, and aim it just right, to make it through the safety bars. For a three year old, five minutes was a tremendous amount of practice, but he learned if he didn’t give up he would eventually get it right.
We Play Outside Every Single Day
With the exceptions of heavy wind or rain and extreme cold, my preschoolers and I go outside to play every single day. It is an important part of my program and important for the development of the whole child. While these are examples of non-academic things children can learn from playing outside, and we certainly do play more academic games outside, simply being outdoors, and playing for the sake of playing outside can be educational as well.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.