As you might have guessed I am an advocate for getting out whatever the weather. Come rain, snow or sun we spend time outdoors, even if it’s only for 10 minutes at a time. With a tiny baby or pre-walking toddler getting outdoors in horrible weather can be daunting and as with any young child it can take half an hour just to get out the door what with all the wrapping up warm and refusals to get dressed! However, every time I struggle with the motivation to get up and get out I think of the positive benefits it has for my little one’s development.
Probably one of the most obvious benefits of getting outdoors is how the outdoor environment can benefit children’s motor skills. By letting our children play with sticks and stones we are supporting their fine motor skills, these involve the small muscles in the body that allow us to do things like use a pencil, pick up our food and do our buttons up. Allowing our children to walk and crawl across different terrains, climb and roll down hills and splash in puddles supports the development of their gross motor skills; these are the bigger movements children make like sitting and standing up and learning to walk. They involve balance and movement control.
Moving Smart is a great blog to follow if you want to learn more about the importance of movement in childhood http://movingsmartblog.blogspot.co.uk/
The outdoors can also support the non-physical skills that children need like self awareness. It can help them learn about being individuals and that feelings like being cold or wet are individual experiences. From this comes the ability to understand how to make themselves feel more comfortable, for example, if it’s raining I’ll put on my rain coat which will keep me warm and dry. For children who are talking it can be useful to have a conversation about how being out in different weathers makes them feel, not just physically but emotionally too. Did being out in the sunshine make them feel happy? Did the rain make them grumpy?
Playing outdoors can be great for building their self confidence too. Joining in when they discover something new and encouraging their independence can be a real boost for them. Climbing a tree for the first time, discovering a bug or simply finding THE best stick ever can do wonders for making children feel good about themselves.
Just being outdoors and experiencing the wind in your hair, the rain on your face or the freeze of ice on your fingers is an amazing sensory experience. Feeling, smelling, tasting, seeing and hearing the outdoors helps children make sense of the world. Even tiny babies stop still when they feel the wind on their face. My little boy used to gulp as if he was trying to take in as much of the wind as he could. He is one now and loves to put his face into the wind and feel it breeze over his cheeks and through his hair. You can see the amazement on his face as he stops and sits on the lawn listening to all the birds that I tell him are singing for him. He will quite often just stop still and take everything in; you can see all the little cogs turning as he processes all the information.
The great thing about being outdoors is it’s all there for you. The wind, the rain and the snow. The grass, the sand and the mud. The sticks, the stones and the flowers. It’s all there ready for your little one to explore and take it all in. So next time you think about staying tucked under the blanket with the little ones crawling about think about the amazing world there is to discover and how much your little one will learn.