Tag Archive for: the great outdoors

20 Benefits of Outdoor Play for Little Ones

It's important that young children are given ample opportunity to play, learn and explore the many activities that only the outdoors allowsOutdoor play offers an enormous range of benefits to children, particularly during their early years. It’s therefore important that little ones, in particular, are given ample opportunity to play, learn and explore the many activities that only the outdoors allows — under adult supervision, of course. Outside, they’ll learn new skills and knowledge and will benefit both physically and mentally in ways that perhaps the indoors could never fully allow. So, if you are the parent or guardian of a child in their earliest years, take a look at 20 of the key benefits of outdoor play for little ones.

1. Outdoor Play is Great Fun!

Playing outdoors is generally great fun!We should not overlook the complete obvious — playing outdoors is generally great fun! That’s not a trivial thing and indeed it’s important for children’s wellbeing. After all, fun and games are all an essential part of any happy childhood. There is also no better way for little ones to learn than through play, so giving them the opportunity to play outdoors represents a much wider opportunity than anything they can do inside.

2. A Completely Different Set of Activities & Challenges

Outdoor play offers a largely different set of games, activities, challenges and exploration opportunities compared to those available indoors.Outdoor play offers a largely different set of games, activities, challenges and exploration opportunities compared to those available indoors. After all, it literally opens up a bigger world for children to experience. With the myriad of different environments available outdoors, whether man-made or natural, there’s simply more to do. So, the potential for a near infinite range of different activities and games is possible outdoors — each of which can teach children something new.

3. A Greater Sense of Adventure

As well as being a fun place to be, the outdoors will give children a sense of adventure.As well as being a fun place to be, the outdoors will give children a sense of adventure that is harder to replicate indoors. And adventure is all a healthy part of childhood, when you think about it.

4. An Escape from Electronic Screens

Outdoor play is also a very healthy release from spending time in front of electronic screens like TVs, tablets, games and maybe even mobiles if children have them. Studies and a good dose of common sense show that too much screen time is not good for children and getting them outdoors is a great way to go back to basics and enjoy more natural, active play.

5. New Knowledge

Children get to learn so many new things when taking part in the myriad of possible activities outdoors.Along with this bigger world comes greater knowledge, pure and simple. Children will get to learn so many new things, about both themselves and the world, when taking part in the myriad of possible activities outdoors. Whether it’s new knowledge about nature, the elements, materials, places or something else, there is so much knowledge out there to feed their young minds.

6. Outdoor Play Supports the EYFS Curriculum

The varied nature of outdoor play supports the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum in many different ways. This includes support for ‘prime’ and key’ areas including Physical Development, Communication & Language Development, Understanding the World, Personal, Social & Emotional Development and even Mathematics.

7. Outdoor Play Helps Mental Health

Spending time outdoors and fresh air, particularly when surrounded by nature, is known to help the mental health and wellbeing of both children and adults.Spending time outdoors and fresh air, particularly when surrounded by nature, is known to help the mental health and wellbeing of both children and adults. Study after study show this to be the case.

8. Feeding the Senses

The outside world is a rich stimulant of all the senses.All the senses are stimulated enormously when children take part in outdoor activities, play and exploration. The outside world is a rich stimulant of all the senses including sight, hearing, smell, touch and, with supervision and care, even taste. Proprioception (balance/movement) and vestibular sensing via body position are also particularly stimulated by outdoor play. Learn more about the importance of sensory perception here.

9. Deeper Friendships

Play-based outdoor activities are so different from those undertaken indoors and they also allow for different dynamics amongst children. Many are group-based or at the very least pair-based activities that are quite immersive. The combination of factors around outdoor play can lead to a wider circle of friends and deeper friendships. That can only be a good thing.

10. New Skills

Outdoor play and activities introduce children to completely new skills like teamwork, cooperation, leadership and more.The wider range of immersive activities available outdoors also introduces children to completely new skills. Just a few examples include teamwork, role-play, strategy and leadership.

11. Improved Communication Skills

Communication skills are also nurtured during outdoor play. Children playing outdoors, together, will need to learn to communicate clearly with each other as they go about joint activities and games. They’ll soon learn what communication strategies work, and which don’t.

12. Improved Strength, Fitness & Physical Development

Children playing outdoors are far more likely to be active and physical, expending energy, moving, running, jumping, climbing and more. All of that physical activity will help build strength, stamina and improve general fitness levels. In turn, this active play can lead to a more healthy BMI and help to reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity.

13. Improved Motor Skills, Balance & Coordination

Motor skills (both gross and fine), balance and coordination are also naturally going to improve with outdoor play.Motor skills (both gross and fine), balance and coordination skills are also naturally going to improve with all this more physical, outdoor activity. That’s incredibly important in their early years as they learn to control their bodies and movement so they’re able to stay safe from harm as they become more physically able.

14. Better Spacial Awareness

Spacial awareness is another sense that benefits through regular outdoor activity. With the greater freedom that the outdoors affords, young children will soon hone this essential skill that will help to keep both themselves and their peers out of harm’s way.

15. Expanded Risk Assessment Abilities

Risk assessment is something that children will have to do more outdoors than inside. The good news, though, is that it’ll be quite natural and largely instinctive for them to assess risk, perhaps without even being conscious that they are doing so. This is yet another skill that’ll help to keep children more safe.

16. Creative Inspiration

Whether it's building, inventing, making or simply observing, the outdoor world really stimulates children's minds to create.With all the opportunities that the outdoor environment offers children, it’s no wonder that it greatly stimulates their creativity. Whether it’s building, inventing, making or simply observing, the outdoor world really stimulates children’s minds to create.

17. Improved Self-Esteem

With new skills and abilities, children and their peers may begin to each other in a new, improved light. New abilities and deeper friendships will, in turn, boost children’s self-esteem, in a healthy, natural way.

18. Improved Self-Confidence

Better self-esteem will also make children more confident in themselves, as people, as well as in their abilities. This is a good thing and a way to help them thrive in the world and within their peer group and community.

19. Enhanced Preparedness for School

We run our own Forest School in Edgbaston, Birmingham.All these benefits help children to develop mentally, physically and socially and, in so doing, they will be better prepared when the time comes for them to move from pre-school to school.

20. Enhanced Preparedness for Life

By setting children up with the mental and physical tools that will help them to thrive, they will also be more prepared and equipped for life in general as they progress from infant to child and ultimately into adulthood.

Outdoor Play at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds nursery/pre-school has wonderful outdoor facilities where the children can play, explore and learn in a safe environment. It’s a stimulating and immensely enjoyable area where children can let their imaginations free to gain all the benefits that the outdoors has to offer. We also have our own Forest School in Edgbaston/Birmingham to take this a step further, out into nature. Children simply love it and learn so much!

Outstanding Childcare in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds is a childcare nursery & pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham, close to Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

If you’d like to explore our wonderful nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham or are looking for exceptionally good childcare near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please get in contact with us. We can show you and your child around, answer any queries you might have and give you any information you need. Please choose a button below:

Safety First

While outdoor play is fun and offers so many benefits for children, by its very nature it can be potentially more hazardous. Suitable adult supervision and safety measures should therefore always be in place for the safety and wellbeing of children playing outdoors.

Top 10 Nature Activities for Children
Following our November article, “Nature & it’s Amazing Benefits for Children”, we thought we’d follow up with some wonderful nature-based activity ideas for children to enjoy. As we saw in the aforementioned article, nature has enormous and incredibly varied benefits for children; even more so in their early years. Without going over previous ground in too much detail again here, nature benefits children’s minds, spirits and bodies and improves mental and physical health. The range of benefits is huge.
Slow worm found in the garden undergrowth on a sunny dayWith this in mind, we have put together our top ten list of activities that parents and carers can organise for their children in the natural environment.

1. A mini-beast hunt!

Whether undertaken in the garden, park or countryside, a mini-beast hunt is always a popular hit with young children. Fun and educational, a hunt for little creatures in a natural environment will always give children a real sense of discovery, adventure and accomplishment. See if they can find a bee, a spider, frog, ladybird, worm, ant, slug, snail, a slow worm. Or they could look for larger animals like birds, foxes and rabbits. Teach them to respect the creatures (even the scary ones) and to handle them with great care if touching them or picking them up. They’ll hopefully learn that each of these is a little being that’s going about its life and has its own needs and wants, just like humans, only a little different.

2. Feeding birds

Feeding birds is a great activity for childrenLeaving out suitable food for birds in the garden, balcony or windowsill can be a wonderful opportunity to see the different varieties of birds that live in the neighbourhood. A fun, creative way to do this is to save your used kitchen roll tubes and spread peanut butter onto them (so long as it’s the type with no added salt or sugar) and then that can be rolled in bird seed, which should stick. The finished rolls can be threaded with string and hung out for birds in suitable places. The best locations are off the ground (to protect from any cats) and ideally under the shade of a larger tree or overhang of some kind (so that they’re safe from birds of prey above). Note, too, that birds often take several days to begin to ‘trust’ any new addition to their neighbourhood, so don’t worry if they don’t come straight down for their new food — it may take a while. Feeding birds in this way can help children to learn the different types of birds as well as being a ‘natural’ activity that’s suitable in all weathers. After all, only the birds actually need to be outside in this case!

3. Gardening & Growing

If you have access to a garden, balcony, allotment or even windowsill, gardening can be immense fun for little ones. Tending to seedlings, planting seeds and even weeding can be an entertaining and worthwhile pastime for them. Children will also love watering them, picking flowers to make a nice bouquet or even harvesting fruit, vegetables and herbs to add to meals later on. Gardening is educational on so many levels and also gives children a useful sense of responsibility.

4. Building activities

Pebble stacks and other building activities are great fun for kidsThe outdoor world gives children wonderful opportunities for building things. For example, children can use sticks and small branches to build dens or camps. Another fun activity is to build wood block, rock or pebble ‘stacks’. These can look almost mystical when several are built. Take a look at the photo of our example. Remember, though, that health and safety is paramount, so young children will need supervision.

5. Creative activities

Gardens, hedgerows and the countryside can also give children excellent opportunities to be creative. For example, they can collect petals from different types of flowers. There are a few different, fun, things they can then do with them:

  • Mix them all together into a kind of natural confetti.
  • Make them into scented water by immersing them into a bowl of water and leaving them to soak.
  • Put them into a thin, plastic beaker, fill with water and then leave to set as ice in the freezer. These look fantastic when popped out after freezing — almost like a ‘frosty’ paperweight with the lovely petals showing through. Leave in the garden to gradually melt – they look wonderful.

Other fun, creative pastimes in nature include making daisy chains, threading leaves with rustic string (this is called ‘leaf threading’) and the resultant leaf chains can then be displayed indoors or hung up outdoors somewhere. Another fun activity involving leaves is face-making. Grab some paper plates, then harvest some leaves, small twigs and petals and then make them into faces on the plates (the plates forming the head).

6. A country walk of discovery

Baby rabbit spotted on a country walkIntroducing children to country walks or walks in the park during their early years will be enough to give many a lifelong interest in nature and the natural world. Walking can be a real adventure as you discover new places, sometimes amazing views and a variety of interesting flora and fauna. Walking in nature can be a real feast for the senses and it’ll help keep children more fit, both physically and mentally. It’ll also educate them gradually as they learn to recognise different types of trees, flowers, birds, animals and insects. Here’s a photo of a baby rabbit that we discovered on one of our walks.

7. Cycling

Similarly, cycling can get children out into the natural world and make it great fun. Whether it’s a toddler using a tricycle or a preschooler using a scooter or two-wheeled bike, this is an opportunity for all ages so long as the terrain is carefully chosen — ideally fairly flat, smooth and not muddy, especially for the young. Parks can be great as they tend to have decent trails and routes to follow, but respect walkers and give them the right of way, particularly on paths.

8. Picnics

In the spring, summer or autumn, there will be ample opportunities to have a picnic outside instead of eating at home. This can be in the garden, local park or countryside. Picnics can be immense fun and are an easy way to get children interested in the outdoor environment. Setting down a picnic on a grassy area also gives you all a ‘base’ around which children can play and explore after eating. A game of hide and seek will be an obvious extension of this. When they’re older and more self-sufficient, this can be developed further by expanding to more adventurous locations like riverbanks (so long as they can swim confidently) and more rugged countryside.

9. Camping

Fun with shelters at Forest SchoolUnder supervision, camping out in the garden or in the countryside can take picnics and country walks to the next level. You can combine them with an overnight stay under canvas. This can be as formal or ‘wild’ as parents see fit. Overnight camping, and all that goes with it, opens up a whole new world to children who will be able to enjoy new adventures under the stars, immersed in the elements, perhaps even learning how food or even toasted marshmallows can be cooked away from home on a natural, foraged log fire. Don’t forget, though; safety first!

10. Join a Forest School

Our top tip is for children to join a Forest School. At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, we run a Forest School for children aged up to five years of age in the Birmingham area. For people elsewhere, there are many others dotted around the country for children of all ages. Forest School gives children access to the natural environment, giving children the chance to enjoy nature, discover new skills, enjoy all the benefits of ‘The Great Outdoors’ and have enormous fun whilst doing so. It can positively change children’s outlooks on the world and this can benefit them mentally and physically for the rest of their lives. Learn everything you need to know about Forest School in our “Complete Guide to Forest School” here.

For those who don’t have a Forest School nearby, our activity ideas above may be useful for parents and carers. With these, they can help children have fun, learn and benefit from everything nature has to offer in gardens, parks and natural outdoor spaces nearby.

Contact our Birmingham Nursery

Leaps & Bounds would love to hear from you if you have a baby or child under five and are looking for suitable nurseries in the Edgbaston, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood, Smethwick and Birmingham areas. Contact us or book a visit here, or call 0121 246 4922 to speak to our staff. We’ll be happy to discuss a suitable childcare place for your child, to arrange a tour or to answer any questions that you might have.

Nature & it's Amazing Benefits for Children
Young girl enjoys playing with autumn leavesBack in June we published our Complete Guide to Forest School and this explained how children can enjoy, learn and benefit from the natural world as part of their nursery experience. Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery has its own Forest School in Birmingham, so it’s something that all our under-fives enjoy as a matter of course.

In this new post we’ll explore the overall benefits of nature for young children. What does it do for them? How does it affect them? What are its long-term benefits? Let’s take a look …

Nature and playing in the natural world is good for children. Study after study concludes that children who spend time outside are happier, smarter, fitter, more attentive and less anxious than those who spend their time indoors.

Nature Benefits the Mind

Nature is enormously beneficial for children’s emotional and mental wellbeing.

  • Nature stimulates children's imaginations and sense of wonder Nature stimulates children’s imaginations. Watch children in the countryside for just a few moments and you can soon see their creativity kicking in, utilising the natural environment and materials around them in all manner of creative ways. Nature is an exceptional source of inspiration.
  • The natural world makes children think deeply. Children of all ages will look at natural objects, plants and animals and then look closer. They’ll ask questions about them, learning by discovery too, and build a huge knowledge about the natural world and all the things in it. It can often make them really think profound thoughts about where we came from, what it might be like to be a wild animal, why the flowers and trees change with the seasons, and so on.
  • The natural world is a wonderful stress-buster. Outside, in nature, children enter a completely different world and can leave the stresses of the modern world behind, almost instantly.
  • Being out in the natural world can boost children’s self-confidence by giving them more freedom to go in one direction or another, to create a myriad of activities within their surroundings and to simply be themselves.
  • The natural world gives children freedomOutdoors, children can be more free than in any other situation. With this new-found freedom, they can really ‘live’ and see a new side of life that will appeal to their inner instincts and natural sense of adventure.
  • Nature also teaches children about responsibility and self-control. Giving a child the responsibility to care for plants, or to put out seeds for the wildlife, teaches them valuable lessons about caring for other living things — and the responsibility that requires. Empathy will follow naturally.
  • It’s similar with the element of risk. They will quickly learn to risk-assess in the endless bounds and variety of the natural environment. That’s incredibly important.
  • Outdoor play is shown to improve children’s focus, especially for those with ADHD. It’s also shown to increase mental energy and short-term memory skills.

A study by the American Institute for Research found that children learning in outdoor classroom environments achieved a 27% improvement in science scores.

Nature Benefits the Body

Regular access to nature has enormous benefits for the physical health and bodies of people of all ages — especially growing children. These include:

  • Nature benefits the bodyRegular exercise is great for kids. Running around and playing in the natural world gives children space to really run free and to improve their physical fitness. Doing so will also help them to maintain healthy body mass indices and respiratory function.
  • This exercise, and the hugely varied activities that are possible out in the natural world, are sure to improve children’s motor skills, strength and physical resilience.
  • Nature stimulates far more senses than most indoor activities. The outdoors is a rich, sensory environment; children can see, hear, touch, feel and smell. In stark contrast, TV, other screen-based activities and most toys stimulate just a narrow range of children’s senses.
  • A child who appreciates nature is more likely to appreciate the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, for example in relation to physical exercise and healthy eating choices.
  • Studies also show that babies sleep better at night if they’ve been out in the fresh air during the daytime.

Another study in 2019 found that adults who had low exposure to outdoor environments as children had far worse mental health than those who had good access.

Nature Benefits the Spirit

  • Nature has many spiritual benefits for children Children who connect deeply with nature are more likely to become environmentally conscious individuals. That’s good for the spirit — and the planet itself.
  • The natural world is full of beauty and wonder. When children learn to appreciate this, the benefits are truly profound.
  • Playing close to nature, away from the boundaries of homes and schools, opens up a whole new world to children. In this bigger world, new friends can be made and new interests can evolve together into the future. It’s also something that can become a shared interest within families themselves.
  • An appreciation for nature and the Great Outdoors can have life-long positive effects that can be carried forwards well into adulthood.
  • Appreciating nature can also give children a sense of priority. For example, to highlight things that really matter in the bigger scheme of things. This bigger perspective can really help when insignificant things are bringing a child down.
  • The natural world creates a feeling of pleasure at a deep level. When life in the modern environment is causing stress and discomfort, a walk out in the fresh air is sure to blow out the cobwebs and raise one’s mood. Mindfulness also goes hand-in-hand with the peace available in the natural world.

Children don’t remember their best ever day in front of the TV, but a day’s adventure with nature is hard to forget.

Conclusions

Nature is a wonderful teacherNature is an amazing teacher. Importantly, it teaches children just as much about themselves as it does about the natural world itself. Children who spend time with nature at an early age awaken previously undiscovered skills like leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, independence, using tools and many more. These are also skills they can take with them into the world as they grow towards adulthood.

Nature is a wonderful equaliser too. It doesn’t judge or rank children. It doesn’t exclude anyone and indeed is a wonderful connector. It also gives children the opportunity of adventure, of discovery, of an escape from today’s technological and often man-made world. Everything in nature is real and, when you take a moment to take a close look, it’s exciting and amazing in equal measure. The Great Outdoors really is great! It’s often a whole new world for those who’ve previously spent most time indoors or in a city. As such, it represents almost endless possibilities. Nature allows play and discovery to be unstructured and, a such, open-ended, offering unrivalled opportunities. What’s more, it can be incredible fun for under-fives and, indeed, children of any age.

Enjoying Nature in our Birmingham Forest School

Forest School gives children opportunities for adventure outdoorsLeaps & Bounds is incredibly proud to offer its Birmingham Forest School to children attending the nursery. It promises to positively change their outlook and profoundly improve their lives — quite possibly forever. Learn more about how children can benefit from nature and the natural world in our Complete Guide to Forest School here.

If you would like to explore the possibility of enrolling your child into Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and its Forest School, call 0121 246 4922 or contact us to arrange a visit here. We are an outstanding nursery and pre-school based in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick.

(Check out our other post about activities that any child can enjoy outside with nature, where fun and discovery are free).