The sound of children’s laughter floats across the grassy field. A group of small children are engaging happily together as they work towards creating a structure together out of found sticks and tree boughs. The teachers sit in the shade of a Douglas Fir Tree with other children enjoying snack keeping a watchful eye on those building. One teacher stands up and walks towards the children building and looks at their progress. She begins to inquire about what they’re creating and the children excitedly bubble forth their ideas and their challenges. Before long, the teacher is engaged with the children helping them to build something. The children who were eating are now packed up and ready to play. Within seconds they have started collecting pine cones and small sticks to begin building a ‘campfire’. The pine cones and fallen leaves are now hot dogs that they cooked over their pretend fire. Both teachers delightedly ‘eat’ the hot dogs exclaiming they’re the best they’ve ever had. The children proceed to hand out more ‘hot dogs’ to the other children who were building and invite them to their campfire.
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This is a small look into a morning in an outdoor preschool setting. Here children are offered the freedom to explore and engage in their natural classroom setting. They are encouraged to use their imaginations to ignite their curiosity and delve deep into imaginary play.
A new term has been coined: Nature Deficit Disorder.
“Nature deficit disorder refers to the phrase coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. “
Living in a busy city where yards are small and even hard to come by, getting outside is becoming increasingly challenging for many people. While society has slowly moved inside and away from our outdoor roots, studies have shown that engaging in outdoor play ignites our minds and enables us to learn and absorb information easier. Children are calmer outside and behavioral issues are significantly lower as nature offers a rich and wonderful classroom to learn from.
While life may not always offer many opportunities to get children outside, offering children the opportunity to be in an outdoor program will give them experiences that will last a lifetime.
Here is a brief bullet list of some of the benefits of being in an outdoor preschool program:
- Engages community building
- Inspires connection to others and to natural surroundings
- Assists in developing positive feelings and memories around school and being in nature
- Decreased stress levels
- Overall healthier immune system
- Increased resiliency to change in their surroundings
- Develops stronger self confidence
- Develops strong gross motor skills
- Self awareness
- Awareness of the natural environment around them
- Increased self resiliency