Thursday, October 14, 2010

It’s Raining Can I Go Outside and Play?

Contributed by JC Boushh

This week I have been focusing on old-fashion play and the consequences we face when we do not allow children every opportunity to play. I reside in Southern California, which in my opinion has some of the nicest weather in the country year round, but to astonishment I have visited numerous child care centers were at the slightest sign of overcast skies or rain showers the kids are corralled inside to ride out the storm. When did weather become so dangerous to the health of our children? I hope to therefore shatter the myth of the dangers of letting children play outside when the weather is perfect.

Won’t the Children Get Sick Play Outdoors?

Children of all ages enjoy and benefit from playing outdoors in all except the most extreme weather. Daily outdoor play is healthy and burns energy. It gives children an opportunity for a change of environment, a balance in play and routine, large muscle activities (gross-motor development). Even children who are mildly ill but active should go outside if the weather is not severe. Staff and children alike will feel refreshed when fresh air is part of the daily routine. Taking children outdoors daily, even in winter, can be a healthy part of their schedule, and is safe when clothing is appropriate. (Source: http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Safe_Play_Outdoors/ )

Swedish research “Outdoor-in-all-weather” centers:

* Children less sick

* Motor development was more advanced

* Power of concentration was heightened

*Play Activities were more diverse, especially in the affective imaginative & social domains

How do I prepare the children for the outdoors when the weather is not perfect? The Director of the Four Seasons Kindergarten, Kirsten Bjerre states; “There is no such thing as bad weather –just the wrong clothing!” When a child is dressed properly and is outdoors for short periods and physically active they have a greater chance of no getting sick, rather than being closed in a classroom, where the temperature and airflow are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Educate your parents to bring a change of clothes for increment weather. Invest in children’s raincoats and galoshes and set up a mud room where children can transition from the outdoors to the indoors and vice versa. Educate parents that it’s ok if their child gets dirty or wet. We did and we survived. Ultimately it’s what is right for the children and its part of healthy child development. So take some time to jump in a muddle puddle and play.