The outdoors is a great place to teach children about science and learn about where things grow. Children can develop their understanding of evaporation and water flow by exploring puddles and drains, investigate animal behaviors by observing birds and bugs, and learn about life cycles by watching plants sprout, grow, flower, and create seeds. Many children who live in town miss out on the rich and varied opportunities for science learning afforded by the outdoors. Parents, educators, and other primary caregivers might not realize that a small patch of grass, a single tree, and a walk to the store are all opportunities to learn about nature, generate questions, and conduct experiments to find answers. Taking advantage of these opportunities provides children with ways to engage with important environmental science concepts, connect science with the real world, and help build an understanding of every day phenomena, such as why leaves fall from trees and where rain goes after it falls from the sky. A child may learn where a squirrel takes shelter from the rain simply by allowing them to look out the window during a rain storm. Unfortunately, families often view the outdoors not as a rich environment for exploration, but merely as a place for children to play or as an interesting space between one building and another.
Here at Delaware Child Development Center we value the outdoors as much, if not more, than our indoor spaces. This month our amazing Preschool and Early Preschool playgrounds were developed, and minus some final touches, they are finished! The children have been utilizing them and loving every element, including the zipline!
Our infant sensory garden playground is now under new development as you may have noticed walking up the sidewalk while arriving and departing the center. I would love to invite all families to go look at the newly developed playground. We are very proud. Our maintenance crew did a wonderful job seeing and building the vision we had planned.
You may not think of spaces in town as areas where you can do nature-based activities or may not think that there are meaningful ways to interact with nature in cities. Even families and educators who are aware of the potential for outdoor learning in urban settings often think they lack the resources, knowledge, time, and space to engage children in these educational experiences. Being disconnected from nature reduces opportunities for science exploration that can have negative health consequences. Lack of time in nature can cause many health concerns. This disconnect is associated with obesity, asthma, attention disorders, poor self-regulation, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. These issues are more common among children than you would think. Stress also is more common among children nowadays. Spending time outdoors and in nature however has been found to mediate children’s stress levels. That is why our teachers are determined to allow the children at Delaware Child Development Center as much outdoor time as they possibly can.
You may be asking yourself how you can support this type of development. Simply providing our teachers with appropriate clothing for your child each day is very helpful. Things such as clothes that can get wet/muddy, rain boots, water shoes, swimwear, and shoes that are made to get wet are all fine examples. One thing to remember as parents of children who attend DCDC, when you are picking up your child at the end of the day, it’s a good possibility that they have gone outside. I mention this because they may be wet, sandy, and/or muddy. Please allow yourself some extra time to change their clothes and wash them up during pick-up as you may go somewhere after pick-up in which this appearance would not be appropriate.