Playing outdoors is not just about keeping kids active. Many vital social and emotional skills can be learnt through creative and imaginative exercises. The outdoors is great for this purpose, because it provides children with a ready-made world to explore together. By engaging their imaginations, children can discover more about the world around them, solving problems with creative thought and building relationships through social mimicry.
Introducing equipment and activities that encourage this kind of play can enrich your pupil’s development. There are many types of imaginative play, but the following tend to make the most of your outdoor area.
Messy play of any kind helps children engage with simple tasks and chores. But mud kitchens are particularly good for promoting sharing and interacting. By copying scenes from their homelife (such as cooking and baking) children begin to understand the social implications of these activities. Communication is also improved through the sharing of ideas, as children become more confident playing alongside one another.
Working as a team to build dens allows children to be creative. They must decide on the materials they will use, along with how they are going to put everything together. Dens and playhouses give children a place to centre their games around and develop their social skills. Using them as part of your curriculum is easy because they are extremely versatile and can become anything a child imagines them to be.
Musical Play Equipment
From a very young age, children can engage with music. The stimulation they receive from it helps them exercise their creativity. Installing musical panels outside gives children space and freedom to experiment with sound. Once they have shown an initial interest you can introduce musical concepts or see if they can mimic the sounds of the natural world around them.
Sand And Water Play
Tactile materials such as sand and water help children learn on a sensory level. By pushing boats along the surface of a water feature, children can begin to understand the concepts of floating and sinking. Giving children the freedom to play with these materials by themselves allows them to exercise a little self-expression. This is often the key to more creative thinking and once they have begun to copy images and shapes from reality, they can attempt to put their own spin on things.
Role play forms a large part of young children's lives. When an adult introduces a new concept to them, they will often try and understand it by physically acting it out. Playing shop or doctors and nurses is an example of this kind of behaviour. Creating an outdoor performance area for children to project these scenarios can help them share their creativity with others. Getting dressed up and performing to a small audience of their friends will boost their confidence and lay the foundations for key social skills. Being outdoors means they can involve sounds, sights and other natural props in their performances, which increases their knowledge of how everything works.
Themed Play Structures
Traditional play towers tend to be quite uniform and stilted. Although these are tried and tested for physical growth, they don’t promote creative growth in the same way as themed equipment. Structures based on pirate ships or castles can be a springboard for imaginative play. When a child pretends they are at sea or in a far-off land they begin to think about how things would work in these scenarios. Although this may not appear to have a place in reality, when children apply this method of thinking to everyday activities, they can picture new and innovative methods of problem-solving.
Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum.
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