I grew up in South Lake Tahoe and I believe it played a huge role in who I am. I remember riding my bike through the forest, playing outside till it was pitch black, seeing bears and coyotes in their home (and close to mine). I learned a respect for life outside of what I knew. We played a role in our environment, and with this came invaluable experiences.
When I was in school for my Masters in Early Childhood Education, I became fascinated with how we can get children outside. Our culture has shifted in a way that has removed children from this natural setting. Parents tend to work longer hours leaving children primarily inside during the day. Our cities are growing and the vegetation is diminishing. There are many factors at play. But there are easy ways we can increase these opportunities for our children.
Nature has a way of providing organic situations you just could not plan for in a classroom. While engaging in play in a natural setting children are able to develop multiple aspects of their understanding. They utilize fine and large motor skills, practice communication, problem solving, trial and error and imaginary play to develop their understanding of the world around them. This sensory experience also provides an environment that gives an outlet for all that energy people seem to not understand children have.
As Erin Kenny says, “Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.”
Check out this article from Teacher Tom on transforming your backyard to an outdoor playground