Why does MBIS promote outdoor learning in the early years?

 I recently attended a workshop in Hyderabad for educationists that focused on how we can help our young learners develop skills that are necessary to be happy and successful in the 21st century.

It may surprise you to hear at internationally there is consensus that these skills are not being efficient at coding nor the ability to entertain oneself using devices such as ipads and iphones but rather they are creativity, innovation, growth mindset and self-regulation.

So how do we provide for the development of these skills at MBIS ?

Reflecting back on my own childhood and my journey as an educator and a parent, I am deepening my understanding of high impact  environments play in young children’s personal, social, emotional health and development.

As parents and educators, we are aware of  the significance of the environment in nurturing a young child’s body and mind. Yet, many times, we fail to create opportunities for our children to freely explore and engage with the world,  at their own pace and develop into happy, healthy human beings. The challenges that we face as educators and parents to raise a “perfect child”,  are enormous. The constant pressure to stay ahead of others, in this highly ,competitive world around us is a major culprit.

We often read and hear about the rise in mental, physical, social and emotional health problems in children as young as our preschool learners. Now is the time to reflect, rethink and redesign our learning environments that will allow these skills to develop naturally.

Many schools and educators around the world are joining hands to promote outdoor learning and raise awareness of its benefits on young children’s holistic development.

What makes outdoor learning so essential now and how are we promoting this at MBIS?

 Let me explain some of the benefits of connecting with nature and the steps we are taking to stay connected with nature at MBIS.

Take a moment to think of the time you spent outdoors breathing in fresh air, admiring the sunset being on  top of a hill. How does it feel? It feels great and energises you instantly as you watch the sun go down transforming the horizon into  the most beautiful painting you have ever seen. You forget about the long hard day you have had and a sense of well-being sets in. Imagine what happens to your child’s  brain, heart, senses, the entire body as they interact with nature and climb over a rock or a tree, jump off a log or in a puddle, crush dried leaves with their feet, pick up sticks, admire and smell wildflowers, observe birds singing, chase butterflies, fall and even get hurt!

Your child will not only experience the sense of well-being and build resilience, as you did while climbing the hill and watching the sunset in the open air, but without even realising it they are  becoming a custodian of nature. They  will only value what they are  aware of and by being able to explore and discover the beauty of nature from this very young age, your child will respect and protect it going forward.

Let us not forget the health benefits both mental and physical that your child will reap due to the activities that they enjoy as they intensely explore the  outdoor environment. The rising cases of childhood obesity and other health problems around the world, can be controlled if initiatives were taken by both parents and educators to encourage physical outdoor play.

Now observe your child’s play outdoor with no colourful plastic toys but only their friends and nature to interact with. You will notice how it actually adds other elements to their play. It boosts their confidence  and problem-solving skills and nurtures creativity, as they use limited and unfamiliar resources imaginatively.

At MBIS, we value the benefits of outdoor learning and provide our preschoolers with opportunities to engage with nature, feel the air and discover the world around them. The field trips to the farms, planting a garden, celebrating global play day outdoors with a picnic, nature walks,  are just some of the ways our preschoolers interact with nature and learn to be respectful towards their environment.

A few tips to encourage outdoor play at home from ‘Christie Burnett,  an early childhood teacher, presenter, writer and the editor of ‘Childhood 101’, and a mum who believes wholeheartedly in the value of children learning through play, the importance of quality early education, and the togetherness of family.’ Hope you find some ideas suitable for your family.

  1. Take the indoors out: Taking toys that children already enjoy inside outdoors can encourage them to play and explore with them in new ways. Blocks and figurines, dress ups, playdough and other creative materials are all open to a world of new possibilities when taken outdoors.
  1. Use outdoor spaces as an extension of your indoor space: A patio, verandah or cubby house can provide shelter for play outdoors during the hotter and colder months, and extend your family’s playful spaces at any time of the year.
  1. Spend time together outdoors as a family: Whether it be an evening walk together or involving your children in washing the car, being outdoors yourself is a great way to encourage children to be there too. Here are 25 more ideas for having fun together outdoors and a great collection of ideas for family friendly weekend adventures.
  1. Take time to explore a range of outdoor environments: Think beyond your own backyard when it comes to kids playing outdoors. Depending upon where you live, a visit to the beach, a river, a botanical garden or nature reserve, or even a farm, will provide your children with more of the great outdoors to explore.
  1. Make it social: Inviting a friend over to play may be just the incentive your child needs to play outdoors. Set up a fun outdoor invitation to play (or two) and leave them to it.
  1. Involving children in outdoor chores: Whether it be washing or walking the dog, pulling weeds, hanging washing or harvesting the vegetable patch, involving children in chores in and around the home is essential for the development of practical life skills.
  1. Just add water: Kids love playing with water! As a sensory activity it aids brain development, and as a cognitive activity it lays a foundation for later scientific and mathematical learning, not that kids care about that at all, they just like to splash, pour, stir and get wet! Here are 10 fun ways with water play to get you started.
  1. Don’t stress about the mess: For those mamas with a lower tolerance for messy play, being prepared with a tub of water, soap, face cloth and towels by the back door will help to minimise the likelihood of sand, mud and water being traipsed through the house at the end of playtime.
  1. Make it a habit: You might like to try instituting a daily ‘green hour‘ as consistently spending time outdoors everyday is important to encouraging a child’s engagement with natural places as playful spaces.