Is outdoor playtime break time?

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Ways to enrich outdoor play and promote healthy child development during the preschool years!

With summertime upon us, outdoor play is one of the biggest topics of discussion going around the blog world. I recently participated in a wonderful discussion on outdoor play on Bam Radio and I hope you will take the 15 minutes of time to listen to it…

The radio segment is titled Why Play Time is Not Break Time” with Rae Pica, Dr. Michael Henniger, Dr. Heather Olsen Ed.D,  and me.  You can listen to it if you click here as well.

Rae Pica with Dr. Michael Henniger, Dr. Heather Olsen Ed.D, Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

Playtime gives children the opportunity to create memories.

Playtime is not Break Time

The unfortunate reality is that often times teachers view outdoor play as the teacher’s time to take a break. But the reality is, outdoor play is one of the most important times for teachers to stay engaged. I am not talking about teachers running around the playground chasing children (although the children just might like that). Instead, I am talking about looking at the outdoor environment as a place to explore, learn, discover and examining whether or not your outdoor space promotes these types of play.

I was recently talking with a friend of mine who teaches preschool and he said, “Outdoor time is the kids time. I just let them enjoy it.”  I agree with him in that this is the kid’s time and they should enjoy it. This radio program and this post is not to make outdoor time another thing to structure but rather to encourage teachers (and parents) to take a good look at what there is for preschoolers to do while they are outdoors so they can enjoy their time on the playground – so they can stay engaged in positive and enriching play.

Engaging Ideas to Enrich the Outdoor Play Environment

The speakers on the Bam Radio segment shared several ways you can enrich your playground environment.

  • Create prop boxes that compliment the themes or units of learning you are exploring indoors. Outdoor prop boxes are boxes filled with materials that the children can play with outside. They can include anything from dress-up clothes to watering cans to stuffed animals to musical instruments to paintbrushes and buckets of water and more.
  • Bring some music outdoors. Put on a little Greg and Steve and see what happens!
  • Bring the easel or other types of art materials outdoors.

Dr. Henniger from the Bam Radio segment said, “adding elements for play to the outdoor environment adds richness to their play.”

Why add Ideas to the Outdoor Environment?

Both of the guest speakers mentioned that when they asked others to look back and recall some of their favorite memories of play, most (if not all) recalled an outdoor play experience. This is because outdoor play brings in “sights, sounds, sensorial experiences, and freedoms are expressed.”

Yes, you may have some terrific playground equipment and the children most likely enjoy it but playground equipment doesn’t change and over time, children can become bored. Adding prop boxes, music, art, and other materials can keep your children engaged in the outdoor play experience and can lead to additional learning, problem-solving, and exploration. If you really want to relax while the children play – then create an environment where the play is engaging!

Be sure to take a listen to “Why playtime is not break time” over at Bam Radio and learn more about the importance of the outdoor experience!

PS. I took all these photos at the preschool and what I noticed was how most of the children were playing on and with everything except the playground equipment! Interesting!!

Links to more great ideas for the outdoor environment…

Adding natural elements to your outdoor play space part 1  and part 2 from Let the Children Play!

Rating your outdoor play space from the Body Smart Blog

A rope trail for everyone from I’m a Teacher, Get me Outside Here!

Using sticks for math from I’m a Teacher, Get me Outside Here!

Outdoor music from Child Central Station

Six ways to take art outdoors from Tinkerlab

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Deborah J Stewart

Deborah J Stewart

Every time I think I know everything I need to know about teaching young children, God says, "Hold on a minute!" and gives me a new challenge.

Let me tell ya...

With each new challenge that you overcome, you will find yourself better equipped and more passionate about teaching young children.

God didn't call wimps to lead, teach, or care for His children. Nope, he has high expectations, so get ready. You will have to give your very best but after teaching for over 30 years, I can tell you that it is a wonderful and rewarding journey.

Whenever your calling feels hard, just remember, 'He who began a good work in you (and in the children you serve) will be faithful to complete it.'

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