What are your favorite memories of childhood play? Chances are those memories happened outdoors and included a lot of nature-based activities like digging holes, chasing fireflies, building stick forts or sand castles, jumping in big piles of leaves, or just fooling around with dirt or water. Mud pies, anyone?
Is it possible to form those kinds of memories today? Childhood has changed. With all the screen time, the lack of access to green space, and the emphasis on direct instruction and increased academic focus in early childhood programs and preschools, it can be hard to squeeze in unstructured outdoor play. We need to remember the importance of play in the child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual development.
Play is how children understand each other and make sense of their world. They learn so much from play that it’s often called the “work” of childhood. Studies show that children learn best in an environment that allows them to explore, discover, and play.
Outdoor play in nature has a powerful impact on a child’s development. Research shows that school playgrounds with trees, fields, shrubs, and vegetated edges encourage creative play and build skills that will be valuable in academic learning too.
There are entire preschools centered on nature play. One of the first in New England was established in 2006 at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Connecticut. Several Massachusetts Audubon sanctuaries offer preschool programs. However, nature play can be designed into the playground of your preschool using equipment designed specifically for early childhood outdoor play. Nature of Early Play products, available through Premier Park & Play, reconnect children with the natural world through interactions with dirt, sand, water, animals, music, and plants. Products like the Outdoor Classroom, Nature Bowl, and Garden Roof House provide hands-on opportunities for exploration. For more information about preschool playground products, please contact Doug Knotts at 617-244-3317 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.