Here in the Netherlands two organizations worked together to promote going outside for learning by organizing an outdoor school day. They challenged schools to do at least one lesson outside on this day. We decided to join this special day with our homeschool, and we spent the whole day outside. In the morning, we went for a walk in the forest with three other homeschooling families. The afternoon we spend working and playing in our garden.
Both my children, but especially my son (three years old), love to play outside. My son often asks me, “Can I play in the garden now?” — even before breakfast or after dinner. I simply can’t say no to this. Being outside has so many benefits.
Today I want to share with you some of the benefits of playing and learning outdoors, particularly for preschoolers.
In the book Child Guidance, sister Ellen White shares with us:
- “Next to the Bible, nature is to be our great lesson book,” Testimonies For The Church 6:185.
- “To the little child, not yet capable of learning from the printed page or of being introduced to the routine of the schoolroom, nature presents an unfailing source of instruction and delight. The heart not yet hardened by contact with evil is quick to recognize the Presence that pervades all created things. The ear as yet undulled by the world’s clamor is attentive to the Voice that speaks through nature’s utterances. And for those of older years, needing continually its silent reminders of the spiritual and eternal, nature’s teaching will be no less a source of pleasure and of instruction,” Education, 100.
- “The fields and hills — nature’s audience chamber — should be the schoolroom for little children. Her treasures should be their textbook. The lessons thus imprinted upon their minds will not be soon forgotten,” The Signs of the Times, December 6, 1877.
So, let’s use the outdoors for learning. The course of SonLight about the ‘ten principles of true education’ also emphasises the importance teaching in nature.
“Homeschooling is meant to be done in a natural surrounding where children learn naturally.… Teaching outside tends to quiet hyper students. At first there may be moments of distraction, but these moments will pass, or can often be turned into lessons.… Teaching outside will improve the five senses. Students will become more sensitive to seeing detail, hearing quiet sounds, smelling fragrances, feeling breezes and changes in temperature, and tasting nature through its smells. This will help develop in them a sensitivity to people, their needs… In their time of trouble to will be the little things that will help them to know how to respond to a friend or an enemy. Teaching outside offers time for personal prayer, thoughts and meditation. It offers opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak gently to students through nature.” https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B1d_dY0vFt8ffm1wVjFNQ25tUWFsWFFnT1RnZ3hCbWhHcDdodkhBZW82akg0dERfcFpDbDg?amp%3Busp=sharing
There are also multiple health benefits from playing and homeschooling outside:
- Sunlight: the sun supplies us with vitamin D and helps with sleep-wake cycle.
- Fresh air: indoor air is more toxic than outdoor air.
- Exercise: it strengthens muscles and bones, and it prevents obesity.
- Healthy eyes: spending a lot of time outside in natural light protects against nearsightedness.
And, last but not least, the influence of being outside on mental health:
- Better cognitive performance
- Improved attention spans
- Better behavior and mood
- Increased motivation
- Improved memory
- Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety
- Playing together with other children encourages social development like sharing, and how to negotiate and resolve conflicts.
Adult controlled play, such as in organized sports, and free play are not interchangeable, although both are valuable. Children learn better when they regularly spread their attention or can pause.
What is your experience with the outdoor classroom? Please share how you use your outdoor classroom and how it benefits your children.