The outdoor environment allows a lot of freedom to explore and encourages a lot of social interactions among children. Here, there is plenty of talking, group play, and also free individual play that allows children to manipulate and experiment with natural and man-made materials around them.
For the outdoor environment to promote high-level thinking and the development of observational, exploratory, inquiry, and other skills, it must be carefully prepared and organized so that children do not just move around the playground without acquiring any cognitive skills (Osanyin, 2002; Ogunsanwo, 2004
In one of our previous posts, we examined the various types of activities and facilities that could promote play-based learning in preschools. As a follow-up, this unit shall discuss aspects involved in the planning and organizing of a play-based outdoor learning environment.
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The outdoor environment is outside the classroom. This includes the field, the play area, and the dining hall. Children’s play must take place in an environment that is so prepared as to offer adequate opportunity for, interaction, exploration, and a whole lot of activity.
A child’s play environment whether indoors or outdoors should be designed to teach children. However, the outdoor environment can accommodate higher levels of different kinds of noise than the indoor (Ogunsanwo, 2004).
There is more space for a lot of vigorous activity; children will have greater freedom to experiment with the play materials.
Children learn at their rates and, when they play, they construct their own rules, and formulate and test their hypotheses. The outdoor play thus offers an atmosphere of relatively greater freedom, under which learners are not afraid of making mistakes.
Outdoor play also enhances the development of inquiry, exploratory and critical thinking skills required to solve diverse problems. This may not be possible inside the classroom area which invariably offers relatively smaller space for children’s activities.
Planning the Outdoor Learning Environment
An effective outdoor learning environment is planned with consideration given to the different aspects of child development. Such planning should pay attention to issues relating to the adequacy of use, safety measures, and prompt supervision of the activities in each of the areas (Osanyin, 2002).
It is, therefore necessary to organize the outdoor environment in terms of activities that are expected in the areas. Such learning centers or activity areas may be:
a) Vigorous physical activity (In this area, equipment for climbing, swinging, jumping, and sliding, may be arranged).
b) Wheel-toy areas for riding, pulling, and pushing.
c) Sand and water play areas.
Open space for running, throwing, rolling, and moving.
In conclusion, it is therefore important that children’s play take place in a prepared environment that provides enough opportunity for learning through exploration and a lot of activity.
The environment must be carefully prepared so that children do not just move around the playground without acquiring any cognitive skills.
The child’s play environment should be designed to teach children.
Outdoor play enhances the development of inquiry, exploratory, and other skills as may not be possible inside the classroom area.
The outdoor learning environment may be designed to feature such centers as the water table, sandbox, mud area, garden area, science area, etc.
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