My 20 month old would live outside if we let him. He loves exploring the outdoors and being in nature. It truly is his happy place. If he’s fussy all I have to do is take him outside and he’s perfectly happy. I always knew that outdoor play was beneficial to young children but I wasn’t aware of outdoor play and its affect on brain development. So, now, instead of being annoyed at having to spend so much time outside when I may not want to, I completely embrace it and let him explore as he pleases (all within safety, of course). I’m not sure how we will survive the winter without the ability to play outside but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
the key is Movement!
Movement not only plays a key role in the growth and development of a child’s body but also in the development of their brains. Why is movement essential to early brain development, you ask? The answer is simple, the more a child moves, the more their brains are stimulated, which helps build and strengthen neural connections.
repetition repetition repetition…
After repeated experiences, a child’s body and brain start to build muscle memory, which is the brain’s ability to complete different movements without having to think about it. This then frees up room in the brain to to think about more complex information so it sends the body to collect this information (often through more movement).
When a child repeatedly experiences something, especially in multiple ways such as physical, social, emotional, and sensorial it triggers a physical change, allowing the brain to work faster, enabling the brain to perform more advanced thinking like creating and reasoning.
Outdoor Play and its affect on Brain Development:
Now that we understand how movement impacts early brain development, it’s time to tie in the outdoors part. When a child plays outside they are in an environment that fosters a higher capacity for movement, repetition and exploration and in multiple ways such as physical, sensorial, and often times social as well.
For example, my 1 year old used to have to focus closely on stepping over a large railroad tie in our backyard to make sure he didn’t trip and fall in the rocks. Now, after much repetition, he no longer has to think about that and therefore can think about more complex tasks such as balancing on it! And pretty soon after he’s mastered that he may want to start learning how to jump over it.
the right environment
Rather than thinking our children need to “receive” knowledge, what they really need is to experience as much as possible. They need to explore and simply try, try again. We, as parents can make a great impact by setting the stage for strong and healthy brain development by giving them access to engaging environments and materials, and allowing the time for them to explore.
the building blocks for future learning
Each experience and repeated movement is a stepping stone to more advanced thoughts and learning. Every child needs time to take in what their brain needs. So the next time you are at the park or in the yard, simply slow down and allow your child to move and explore at their own pace. Take a step back and observe them and their miraculous ability to develop their brains on their own through sweet movement.
If you enjoyed this read you may also like these simple and engaging DIY Montessori activities