The Outdoor Instructions For Infants and Toddlers
As the indoor active play area is important for infant and toddler development so is the outdoor learning environment. Opportunities to challenge themselves outside allows for more rigorous activities such as running and throwing balls up into the air. Access to play structures that include steps and slides are also valuable additions to the environment that provide challenges that are not common inside of classrooms. Provision for shade and protection from the elements are important aspects of safety for young children when outside. Both hard and soft surfaces are necessary characteristics of appropriate outdoor play areas. Hard surfaces are good for the use of riding toys and push and pull toys, while soft areas are necessary to provide adequate protection when children fall. Balls and other toys that promote active play outside are important so that children stay engaged in active play outside. The skilled teacher will be engaged in the children’s play to ensure safety and also to prompt simple games and activities.
Outdoor/Active Play Area Development and Learning
Getting outdoors every day is important for both health and developmental reasons. Growth in the following developmental domains is supported through outdoor active play:
• Emotional: The pleasure of being outdoors helps the infant’s sense of well-being. The opportunity for exploration of this different environment can promote feelings of curiosity and interest. Development of new skills enhances an infant’s self-esteem as she becomes competent.
• Social: Older infants develop skills in turn taking as they use equipment, and learn how to play together with a ball or in a small group in a sand box. They share their interest in a new discovery of an insect or a puddle or fallen leaves.
• Motor: Both large and small motor development is supported as infants play on the equipment provided. Skills of climbing up and down, jumping, or learning to use feet to move a riding toy or pedals to move a tricycle require repetition and practice.
• Language: New sounds and other sensory experiences provide opportunities for more language learning. Infants communicate their discoveries to their teacher with words and gestures, and the caregiver in-turn gives them the new vocabulary.
• Cognitive: Infants begin to recognize the differences between inside and outside, and the expectations for both environments. They discover cause and effect relationships using ramps and other equipment, solve problems in order to reach a goal, learn how things move and fit in space, and remember the insect they saw the last time they came out, looking for it again.
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