|Type of paper:||Literature review|
|Categories:||Child development Literature review|
Children are always subjected to different environmental, social and psychological variables that determine their character when they become adults. The children interact with these variables as they engage in children play games. The industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th century introduced socioeconomic changes in the world that affected the space and time utilised by children for outdoor play. Margaret McMillan, Fredrich Frobel and Maria Montessori are some of the pioneers granted recognition for introducing the concept of the outdoor game in early childhood care and education, ECCE. They campaigned for the establishment of open-air nurseries, with MacMillan initiating night camps for children who experienced poor living conditions at their homes. This move has altered the role of outdoor play in the modern ECCE platforms, having recently adopted by the Early Years Foundation Stage, EYFS.
However, some children go against the norms and tend to avoid any engagements in children play games, especially those held outdoors. Practitioners are brought in place to offer their professional prowess in their field so that they help these children to develop as desired. The practitioners ensure that these children can participate in outdoor games without any physical or emotional interference or discomfort. This chapter utilises information from different literature to bring out the relationship between outdoor play and the children it concerns. It also elaborates on the roles of practitioners in promoting the outdoor game in children.
Importance of Outdoor Play to Children
Outdoor play in children is encouraged because of some benefits it presents to the children during their physical and psychological development. Play does not just involve recreation but also gives children a chance to break from their normal routine. This break enables the children to experience different situations to those they are used to, hence tasking their brains with the responsibility of developing new patterns and memory. Consequently, these leads to the nourishment of their brain cells. The same is seen when the children are left to build sand castles and mud pile structures, and in this case, they get to improve on their creativity and language development while creating sweet memories (Cutter-Mackenzie & Edward, 2013).
Willoughby (2014) further adds that play promotes the areas of learning defined in ECCE settings, making the children understand their world, develop literacy and language skills, improve on creativity, personal, social and emotional experiences. Casey (2011) supports this approach by showing that children can interpret their daily environment by using words and actions they have interacted with. With these observations, it can be seen that the more the children get to play, the more they learn. The only downside to this is that the children are exposed to a lot of information that may not be intended for developing young minds.
Children get to have more independence in open spaces compared to when being monitored by adults in indoor games (Bruce et al., 2008). The children are given a choice to interact with the natural environment in a manner that grows their decision-making skills. Practitioners are tasked with oversight in monitoring the children as they contact natural elements of the environment such as soil, water and vast vegetation. The outdoor games remove the restriction of space, therefore granting the children an opportunity to express themselves without fear of adults. As a result, the self-confidence of the children is upheld especially in the use of language (Nangah and Mills, 2015).
Studies have also proven that outdoor environments with greenery and water create a calm environment that helps in building moods in children. The sense of nature and tranquillity helps the children in developing positive emotions, reduce anxiety, pressure and increase mental concentration during learning or playtime. However, caution should be practised especially for children susceptible to allergic reactions from natural allergens that can be produced in such natural environments.
Fawns, a UK based recreational service provider points out that the revolution of iPads has affected the way children play outdoor games. This led to many studies that try to show the importance of outdoor play in children. Among the benefits of outdoor play that Fawns came up with, it became clear that outdoor play helps children develop learning and creative skills that enable them to become more independent of adult supervision. Further improvements in the social skills of the children are also credited to the involvement in outdoor games. Outdoor games have more risks compared to those initiated in the indoor arenas (Fawns, 2019). While this may look like a restriction, it makes the children learn to push beyond their boundaries or comfort zones. The children get to embrace the idea of trying out new games and adventures without adult supervision.
Influence of Early Years Environments in Supporting Outdoor Play
Achieving high levels of outdoor play still has a lot of improvements to make. The information age, which has made internet access a household utility, has transformed the way children play. Such environments, with the inclusion of video games and watching television, has greatly discouraged children from participating in outdoor sports. Security and safety concerns have also pushed parents and guardians into deliberately restricting the amount of time their children take part in outdoor activities, especially in high-risk areas. What these parents fail to understand is that children are spending their time indoor also exposes them to cybercrimes such as cyber-bullying and child-predators. Pornography is also a menace that is readily available to children while online.
According to Mereweather (2015), the rise of single parenting has pushed many children to live with relatives of the extended family. Their lifestyle gets affected, and they tend to conform to the same ways of life as their parents, with limited outdoor activities. In my belief, getting children to live with extended families affects the way they relate to the new environment. In this way, the children may show a tendency of remaining indoors rather than getting involved with new people while outdoors. The hosts of these children must make sure they get introduced to their new environments as soon as possible to remove the barrier of fear and uncertainty in the children.
The standards of living of a family also affect the way children get to participate in outdoor activities. This was proven by a team of researchers who were interested in the environmental characteristics that influence the physical movements of children in low-cost housing (Hayapi & Ahmad, 2016). High-density, affordable housing structures also have small surrounding environments that do not give much space for children to engage in outdoor games. Such neighbourhoods also have widespread reports on insecurity that further narrow the likelihood of children being involved in outdoor activities.
Practitioners Support of Outdoor Play in ECCE Settings
In this context, a practitioner is taken to be anyone who has taken on the speciality of looking after children in a given environment. Practitioners can be children specialists, parents, guardians, teachers or coaches. Practitioners can be commissioned to streamline their roles towards supporting outdoor play in ECCE settings. National Childhood Network, an organisation that deals with the provision of childcare services, defines the role of practitioners and parents in promoting active play in children. The organisation dictates that practitioners should act as role models by leading and participating in physical activity to encourage the young ones to follow suit. Practitioners should also give children enough avenues to capture opportunities to learn and practice new movements and skills (NCN, 2019). They should also avail all resources and knowledge in early years that will enable children to develop in undertaking physical activities and therefore, enjoy the following benefits. They should also work with parents and guardians in providing adequate information to help them raise their children within the set expectations.
The English Guidance strategy advice practitioners to use a common language while communicating with children in the natural environment. As Casey (2011) demonstrated, children use the words and actions they have borrowed from their environment to interact with the world around them. If practitioners engage in good language practices, the same will be reflected in the children, thus developing their language skills. The fact that the young tend to learn a lot from their environment makes it hard to limit their learning capacity. It is important to vet the kind of practitioners the children have contact with to be aware of the type of language and information the children will be exposed to.
Practitioners should develop schedules and curriculum that support outdoor activities in ECCE environments (Grimwood. et al., 2018). This approach is applicable, especially where children get to spend a lot of time in learning institutions than their homes. The practitioners should formulate and implement policies that create and enhance the outdoor environments for children. Once this is done, the children would acquire a conducive atmosphere where they can interact with their environment. The practitioners can as well join the kids in outdoor games as adult participation helps build quality experience with time. This participation adds to the safety and precaution measures put in place to protect the children from indulging in dangerous games. The adults can also utilise this time to teach the children about different ways of administering first aid. However, the adults should be cautious not to take full control of the games as it defies the purpose of giving the children independence.
Parents can also work in the capacity of practitioners for their children when they are at home. In this case, the parents offer their support through providing opportunities for their children to be active, such as hopping like a bunny while performing small tasks at home that require movement from one place to another (NCN, 2019). Additionally, the parents can form an agreement with the childcare service provider to keep up to date with the physical activities the children are involved in daily. Finally, the parents should be active in partaking the outdoor activities, and other community services as children tend to take them as their crucial role models.
How Outdoor Play is Reflected in the Early Year's Curriculum
Instances of outdoor play are manifested in some ways in the early year's curriculum. Longford CCC (2016) uses specific scenarios to show this. According to Longford, the use of sand and water for playing in the early years of a child's development is one of how outdoor play is shown in the early childhood curriculum. The practice has been proven to have many right sides to it. This is as it provides the children with unlimited possibilities of using the sand and water to make anything their imagination can construct. By doing this, the creativity of the child's mind is enhanced. Moreover, the children get to have a sense of responsibility where they see themselves as taking charge of creating something and see it to completion.
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