The University of British Columbia - June 7, 2015
New research from UBC and the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children’s Hospital shows that risky outdoor play is not only good for children’s health but also encourages creativity, social skills and resilience.
The findings, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that children who participated in physical activity such as climbing and jumping, rough and tumble play and exploring alone, displayed greater physical and social health.
For the typical American kindergartner, unstructured free play during the school day consists of 20 to 30 minutes of recess, and perhaps some time at indoor “stations” — perhaps creating with building blocks, costumes, or musical instruments. But what if there was more? What if the answer to “what did you do in school today?” was, “I climbed a tree, played in the mud, built a fire”?
That is exactly the kind of learning going on in the Swiss Waldkindergartens, or forest kindergartens, where children ages four to seven spend all of their school days playing outdoors, no matter the weather. With no explicit math or literacy taught until first grade, the Swiss have no set goals for kindergartners beyond a few measurements, like using scissors and writing one’s own name. They instead have chosen to focus on the social interaction and emotional well-being found in free play.
Whether you’re sharing the outdoors with an individual, family, social or school group, it’s exciting to watch these kids develop new coping strategies and shake loose the grip of their symptoms while they enjoy, explore, play and connect in nature.
An invitation to early years educators to be outdoors in their bodies and in the body of the Earth
By Diane Kashin
The York Region Nature Collaborative (YRNC) is a new organization dedicated to enhancing experiences for children to learn in nature and to develop an ecological identity. We are grateful for the sponsorship of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority http://www.trca.on.ca/ in providing us with the venues that support learning in nature for young children, families and educators. We launched our first event “A Family Adventure Walk in the Forest” in October 2014 and with over 200 children and their families we celebrated nature through play and inquiry at the beautiful Kortright Conservation Centre http://kortright.org/. Inspired by the day and the desire to offer more events for free for children and their families, we are planning a conference for educators – May 23rd, 2015 with the renowned author and early childhood educator, Ann Pelo.