In addition to the obvious benefits of fresh air and sunlight, getting preschool children out of doors and into nature helps them develop a variety of other skills. A walk in the yard or local park easily transforms into a hands-on classroom with the tools to teach children intellectually and physically.
Fine and Gross Motor Control
Manipulating small objects with their hands and fingers builds the fine motor control needed for many preschool activities. Similarly, running, jumping and climbing build large muscles and help children develop physical abilities. In the process of both, interacting with other children encourage social behaviors and teaches interactive etiquette.
Young children begin life as a clean slate that has to be filled in as they grow. Learning to say and spell the names of different trees, flowers, plants, and insects help them develop a strong vocabulary and clear speech. Begin with simple names like tree or flower and progress to specific identifications like elm and later to Ulmus americana.
From counting and sorting to multiplication and division, nature is a smorgasbord of math opportunities. As children play, they can count butterflies, use rocks to learn addition and subtraction, and divide trees into types and sections of the yard. Combining nature with academic studies gives children an incentive to learn and presents real-world examples of how math can be used to answer questions.
Children are curious about all sorts of natural things, from playing with flowing water to watching a day in the life of a beetle. Because nature is the root of science, getting outdoors becomes a science lab that operates on every sensory level from sight to taste. The sky is the limit when it comes to teaching science in an outdoor setting.
To get the most out of time spent outdoors, try to make a routine out of getting into nature, and investigate different academic goals on each visit. In the end, however, just making sure your children get outside as often as possible will benefit them immensely.