Go outside every day
Today I want to encourage you to go outside every day with your preschooler. As in, every day year-round.
It’s a healthy habit to get outside every day and that’s why in a Waldorf school kindergarten or nursery the children play outside no matter what the season or weather. The children have a direct experience of what happens in every season and how it feels to be in the heat, the cold, the sun, the rain, the wind, the snow.
We all know that young children can get very cooped up if they don’t get a chance to go out. They thrive on physical activity and need to move their bodies pretty much constantly. They have plenty of energy to burn. And there’s something else too - just being outside is calming on the nervous system. (Although for the very sensitive child long periods of time in direct sunlight or lots of wind can be overstimulating - like anything we’re looking for balance, inbreath and outbreath.)
The entire Waldorf science curriculum for the early years right through second grade revolves around nature studies. In preschool you really don’t need to “teach” anything about nature. A direct experience of being in nature is far more important. When children are outside they are honing experiential and observational skills which just cannot be taught in any other way. They are also building up a connection to nature which is far more powerful than any didactic lesson in ecology.
Time outside fosters creative play as well. Nature provides a wonderful environment for imaginative play because it is full of open-ended “toys” such as pinecones, sticks, and river rocks. There are endless opportunities to shape the playspace by digging rivers in the sand, building forts with branches, constructing fairy houses with shells and flowers, and so on. Nature is inspiring and engaging and there are no batteries required.
Keep in mind that having appropriate clothing on hand makes an enormous difference in being able to go outside every day. It’s very important to keep young children warm so their energy is directed to growing. The length of time you spend outside every day and the activities you choose will depend so much on the season, the climate where you live, and the weather each day. You can think about this when you plan your rhythm each season. Maybe in the winter you want to take a walk each day after lunch when it’s warmest but in the summer you want to play outside the entire morning and come in after lunch when the sun is overhead. Just make sure you go outside!
How to go outside every day:
1. Think about ways to get more time outside. Could you go for a daily walk? Would you like to start a garden this year or arrange for your playgroup to meet at the park? How about taking art projects, your older child’s lessons, or even dinner prep outdoors?
2. Invest in comfortable clothing for all weather in all seasons. What do you need to have on hand for summer play in the water and garden dirt? How about for staying warm and dry in the winter? Hats are especially important for young children - sun hats in the spring and summer and warm hats in the fall and winter.
3. Make it a priority to go outside! Put at least one block of outside time into your daily rhythm and stick to it.
How much time do you spend outside each day? Do you notice a difference in your child’s mood, sleep, or play when you get more outside time? Do you have seasons when you struggle to get outside with your little one?