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When we think about outdoor play, many just picture children running around screaming, playing on slides and swings getting gross motor exercise to burn off all of that extra energy. But in reality, there are so many more benefits to outdoor play, and it is an important part of the Kids U philosophy to work those benefits into the daily lives of our students.

An outdoor play space should be seen as another classroom, in order to provide whole brain development for young children. And like all of our classrooms at Kids U, a natural environment is a must.

By using natural play spaces instead of the standard cookie cutter plastic or metal play equipment that you see in most playgrounds, children are able to engage in imagination and cooperation with their environment as well as with each other. Children learn how to respect nature while learning and engaging in open-ended play.

Luckily for parents, a natural outdoor play space is easy to recreate at home for the continuity of learning – all you need is Mother Nature!

When setting up a natural play space for children, it is important to envision how the children will use each area. By doing so, you are enticing children to explore, experiment and build.

  • Tree stumps can be positioned in a circular seating pattern to encourage communication by storytelling or performance.
  • Tree stumps, boulders or logs can be used for jumping and balancing.
  • Pea gravel, wood blocks and other loose materials can be used to create art projects and construction ideas.
  • Garden boxes can be used for planting flowers and vegetables, teaching children about food, nutrition and caring for living things.
  • Mud kitchens with materials that the children might see everyday at home.
  • Mud kitchens are so much fun and encourage children to interact with one another while using imagination to create their own scenarios for play.
  • Creating sensory paths with different materials for the children to feel and explore. Sensory paths can be made with sections of grass, sand, rocks, water, mud…anything that gives a different feeling on their feet!

We hope that these ideas have sparked your own imagination on how you might be able to create a natural play space for you and your child in your own backyard!

Find out more about Fueling Brains natural outdoor play spaces at www.fuelingbrains.ca/

Written by Melissa Hackett, Senior Manager of Licensing and Compliance, Kids U Inc.

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