“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” – e.e. Cummings
Fall is here with its whimsical, whirling leaves and wind. There’s no better time to make sure we, and our children, are getting enough outdoor fun. With screen time increasing for both kids and adults, it’s more important than ever to consciously make the time to play in nature.
There is no shortage of information about why our kids need the great outdoors. Vitamin D exposure, healthy eye development, opportunities for exercise, improved sleep quality and brain development, Mother Nature provides it all. Thanks to the nature of outdoor play, (the jackpot of early childhood development), kids can discover confidence, independence and resiliency. Playing outside forces kids to be inventive. It requires them to make choices and choose adventures, take risks and adapt. They move their whole bodies, and use all of their senses when in nature; they can see, hear, smell and touch the world around them, and research tells us that multi-sensory experience promotes better learning.
Outdoor play supports coordination, balance, and motor skills; it feeds a sense of wonder, forces our kids to ask questions, and it even reduces stress, which is important because stress is a huge barrier to brain development.
Below are four ways to take advantage of the outdoors to promote healthy brain development and early literacy.
1. Do something that helps out Mother Nature, such as make a bird feeder, plant a tree, or make a birdbath.
You will need:
- natural peanut butter
- suet (or lard)
- wild birdseed
- cotton thread
- Mix equal parts peanut butter (use the natural kind with only peanuts listed in the ingredients) and suet (or lard)
- Stir in enough cornmeal to make a thick paste
- Press this mixture into the pinecone
- Roll the pinecone in the wild birdseed mix
- String or tie cotton thread to the pinecone and hang from a tree in your yard
2. Start an art project.
- Collect and press fall leaves between wax paper, or do leaf rubbings (place a piece of paper over the leaf and lightly rub over it with a pencil or crayon)
- Collect rocks and paint them to look like animals
- Create a “stained glass” window with fall leaves. After picking your colourful leaves outside, press them to the sticky side of some transparent contact paper, and place on your window
3. Read a non-fiction book about birds.
Try About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill, and see if you can find any of the birds outside. Pair it with fiction books about birds or animals, like the Little Owl’s series by Divya Srinivasan, or any of the Pigeon series by Mo Willems. Extend your books even further by drawing and colouring your favourite birds together.
4. Learn a rhyme together that involves nature.
Here’s one to start you off:
Leaves are floating softly down;
Some are red and some are brown.
The wind goes whooshing through the air.
When you look back there’s no leaves there.
Mother Nature provides for a rich learning experience, so get out there and seize the season—make those mud pies, and jump in those puddles!