The Importance of Outdoor Learning and Nature Play in Early Childhood Education

February 13, 2024

What is Outdoor Learning?

Why is outdoor learning important? And why do young children enjoy playing in nature to such an extent? The answers to these questions are more related than they may seem. Outdoor play is filled with opportunities to learn, grow, and develop. And that’s exactly why it’s so fun for kids! Read on to discover the specific ways that spending time outside can benefit children today.

5 Reasons Why Nature Play is Important in ECE

Listing the benefits of outdoor learning can go on forever, but here are five of the top reasons that are more than worth focusing on for children growing up today.

  1. Sunshine and Fresh Air: Vitamin D strengthens our teeth, bones, and muscles, and the easiest way to get it is by spending time under the sun. It can also improve our mental health, regulate sleep, reduce stress,  strengthen immune systems, and even improve future academic performance levels. Fresh air is also jam-packed with health benefits, including mood improvements, better digestion, lower heart rates, and higher energy levels.
  2. Creative Play: Nature has no limits, or at least very few. When children spend time in outdoor learning environments, they can create their own games. This can help boost independence, confidence, decision making, problem solving, and creativity. Think of a child with a stick, for example. They may pick it up and use it to sweep leaves off the ground like a broom. Or it may turn into their magical wand, a spoon for their “soup,” a telescope to see outer space, or a snake slithering around on the ground. They make joyful memories with their storyline, showing themselves that they are capable of all of the skills mentioned above.
  3. The Chance to Take Risks: This may seem like an odd benefit, but risk taking is an essential part of early childhood development. In natural settings, there are simply more opportunities that invite children to explore skills they have not yet mastered. This may include climbing a tree, walking across a fallen log, running as fast as they can, or rolling down a grassy hill. Risk-taking may seem scary at first when we’re looking through the lens of parents and caregivers. But allowing children to take risks while learning outside can build a wide array of skills, including gross motor abilities, limit setting, and the knowledge needed to evaluate their own real-world risks in the future.
  4. More Physical Movement: This may be one of the most obvious responses when we ask “Why is outdoor learning important?” but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. Playing and learning in nature encourages movement that can set a down for active lifestyles as children grow. Backyard time may turn into a love of gardening. Park trips may turn into weekly hikes. And nightly walks through the neighborhood may stay the norm throughout childrens’ entire lives!
  5. Nature Appreciation: Spending time in nature is the best way to develop a love for it. This in turn helps children grow into adults who appreciate our Earth and desire to care for it well. This, in turn, benefits themselves and everyone around them with reduced carbon footprints and a healthier world to live in.Nature appreciation can also bud and foster interests in the sciences, which may one day grow into your little one’s college major and/or profession!
Little Macacos Wonderschool

4 Ways to Encourage Outdoor Learning and Nature Play Participation

Encouraging outdoor learning for your child is as easy as bringing them outside on a regular basis. Here are some tips to make it fun for the both of you:

  • Make outside time a daily routine. This could look like after lunch playtime in the backyard or after dinner walks down the sidewalk.Anything that works for your family is fair game.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. The right amount of layers can keep you comfortable in almost all temperatures, all year round.
  • Don’t worry about what to do. Your child can lead the way with outdoor play.
  • Plan activities if it’s something you enjoy doing. Nature scavenger hunts and bringing indoor toys out to explore with are two easy options to try.
Piedmont Forest Wonderschool

Overall, outdoor learning is easy to encourage and absolutely essential for young, growing minds. Do your best to increase nature exposure for your little one today and watch the benefits pour in.

Explore Outdoor Learning Centers on Wonderschool Today

If you want to continue your child’s outdoor learning into their weekdays, consider a nature preschool as childcare. You can search for a program near you on Wonderschool today.

Join Wonderschool Today!

Find a child care program that meets your needs from thousands of listings using our Child Care Finder. If you're a provider, create a listing to get discovered by families near you!

Related Content