Here at the Community Kindergarten program we are fortunate to have access to excellent outdoor spaces. These include a fantastic playground, small hills for sledding, climbing and rolling, an outdoor rink in the winter, and wide open field spaces for games as well as trees, grass, rocks, and birds and bugs for exploring and observation. Each spring we also plant a “kinder-garden” and include activities like hatching butterflies and ducklings to help make connections to the outdoors. It is a long standing tradition at our community kindergarten to get our learners outside nearly every day that the weather allows.
Why is outdoor play so important? Fresh air and exercise are important no matter what your age is, but young children especially benefit from the chance to run, jump, climb and raise their voices without structure and restrictions. Each day a kindergarten student is learning new things, is challenged to try new tasks, and faced with the need to focus their attention and concentration. It can be stressful or exhausting to be in that situation! Getting outside can offer a welcome release of constraints from the classroom. This is a space where they can find a way to take extra space for themselves and seek quiet and solitude, or conversely, find a new way to move, make noise, connect with others, and join larger social groups. Creative and physical outdoor activities, the kind that only children can dream up, allow them to discover new skills in communicating, organizing and coping with social challenges.
As a bonus for parents, the daily task of getting on outdoor gear and preparing for outdoor time helps our students build independence. They manage buttons and zippers, perform their mental checklists (do I have my hat? Should I take a water bottle?) and get really good at focusing on getting ready so they can get outside as quickly as possible! Children should love school and have a positive view of learning, exploring and asking questions. Whether they are taking part in an organized outdoor activity or free-play time, we see every day that getting kids outside leads to a better sense of well being. This leads to positive outcomes and children becoming better learners. Kindergarten is meant to be an experience that builds an important foundation for children and their families in demonstrating that learning happens in many positive ways. Daily outdoor time is an important part of how our program achieves this!