Guest Post by Wassana Lampech
Kids are kids, and they naturally gravitate towards the playground and have an innate love for outdoor play. The great thing about this for teachers is that they can channel this energy and enthusiasm into a wide variety of healthy, educational play activities for child development in the playground. There are also a myriad of benefits for children including learning about nature, exploring their outdoor environment, and the physical activity will help develop their fitness and health. Children can also get the chance to develop their social skills, leadership skills, and team work while working with others. While free and unstructured outdoor play is critical for children to express themselves and have fun, there is also ample opportunities for teachers to introduce a structured element to help develop specific areas of learning. We will take a look at some of the learning through play activities that are tried and true and can help enhance the learning experience.
Language skills can be developed through the use of reading and writing games and there are many opportunities to put this into practice outdoors. Preschool children need gross motor and sensory skill practice and one piece of equipment that promotes this along with language skills is a skipping rope. Skipping can be combined with rhymes and songs to promote coordination and communication. Rhyming can help when children are learning to read by picking out patterns in words and sentences. Chalk is another cheap and convenient school supply that can be used outside for drawing, writing and creating games such as hopscotch with. Hopscotch develops motor skills and it can be combined with word games, rhymes or songs to expand children’s vocabulary. One great thing about chalk is that it can also be easily cleaned away once the activity is finished.
Problem Solving Skills
At each new age, a child uses all they know about the world around them to effectively problem solve. Many of us remember playing with puzzles, so as adults we now know that we picked up essential social skills like patience and effective communication along the way. Puzzles are fantastic tools because they teach kids how to manipulate shapes, identify colors and use basic math, but they are also fun and rewarding. Puzzle games for kids according to their age can engage them, fine-tune necessary motor skills and develop a child’s perception about how their world works through observation, play, and movement. Emotional development through patience is another important benefit. For older children, the popular Tic Tac Toe and snake cube puzzle demonstrate that there is more than one appropriate solution.
Group Play / Solo play
Most outdoor activities will involve two or more children in learning through play activities, but solo play can also be beneficial and should be encouraged as well. Many children start out as onlookers of other children’s activities in the beginning of school, until they have found their feet and developed their confidence. Simple structured games can help speed up this process by encouraging them to participate and work together with other children. The other end of the social interactive development scale is when children are actively cooperating together to achieve a common goal. Some structured game ideas include using preschool playground equipment for hide and seek, tag, and getting out the chalk again for four square. Pre-school children need gross motor skill practice. All of these activities promote social interaction and they are simple and fun for children to play. Solo play is good because it builds independence and confidence in children. This can be encouraged by being with a child while they do a favorite activity then slowly backing away until they are comfortable doing it on their own. Climbing on preschool playground equipment, swings, chalk drawings are all good activities to promote solo play.
Playground Activities and Maths
The playground offers excellent opportunities for children to learn about and practice mathematical concepts such as counting, learning about shapes, and measuring. All of these activities can be carried out with a minimum amount of equipment, and in some cases no extra preschool playground equipment is needed at all. For a basic introduction to numbers and counting, or to reinforce learning, children can pair up and push each other on the swings, counting each one as they go along. Skipping and hopscotch are good for this also. Children can interact with nature by finding things in the playground such as trees, leaves or dropped cones for example. They can then use these to count, categorize, or learn about concepts such as addition and subtraction. The playground provides ample opportunities for learning about shapes. Ideas for shape investigation can be clouds, playground equipment, shapes made in the sand pit, or shapes made from chalk. Children that are confident counters can move on to measuring things in the playground.
The playground provides an excellent environment for children to learn and practice making things. Constructive activities are perfect for children to develop their artistic and creative talents and have fun while doing so. Art activities, such as painting and drawing, held outside can help inspire children. They can learn about and paint the world around them, other children, their school, or the natural world that they can see. Children can carry out constructive activities on their own, in pairs, or in groups further boosting their solo or group interaction skills.
Physical Exercise and Health
Physical activity is crucial for a child’s health and well-being, both physically and mentally. Physically it keeps their heart and lungs healthy and strong, develops flexibility and strong bones, promotes a healthy weight, and can help prevent certain diseases and health issues. Mentally it can improve a child’s self-esteem and mood, help them burn off excess energy to concentrate better, and they can have fun interacting with their friends. Kids that are having fun are obviously happier at school and easier to teach and get more out of it. What activities you choose will depend on the age group of the children. Younger children will struggle to understand an activity with too many rules so the easier to understand the better. Things as simple as walking is good, running, tag, or dancing. Throwing and catching balls will also develop motor skills such as hand/eye coordination and activities could be passing it to a partner, or throwing at a target.
Kids love playing outside and there are so many ways that this enthusiasm can work alongside structured activities to benefit their learning. We have just scratched the surface with this article but hopefully it has inspired you to develop more outdoor play activities for child development.