Get outside and play

Playing outside can lead to many discoveries by children.

Children love spending as much time as they can outdoors.  They learn through all their senses, touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.  When they are using more than one of their senses they use many areas of their brain as well.  In addition to using their senses, your child receives sensory messages from moving their muscles and from the inner ear, which regulates balance.  Playing outdoors allows them to use their large muscles and exercise balancing skills.  Outside play also gives your child’s brain practice coordinating messages from different sources including muscles, senses and balance.

Your yard, neighborhood and parks provide lots of hands-on experiences that stimulate your child’s senses as well as introducing them to math and science.  Playing outdoors is less restrictive and allows them to drop, throw, run and kick.  Time spent outdoors offers unlimited opportunities for fun and learning.

Michigan State University Extension suggests adults take the time to explore nature with children.  Walking in your neighborhood encourages your child to explore new sights, sounds and smells.  Talk about the things they are seeing, touching and hearing and describe how they feel, smell or sound.  Listen for animal sounds and watch to see how they move; try to imitate them.  Bring along a bag to collect items you find like rocks, leaves and pinecones.  When you get home you can count, display or further explore the treasures you collected!

Sand can be a very fun sensory activity as well.  Children can explore the texture, size, color, shape and smell of the sand.  Bring shovels and buckets so they can dig, dump, fill, pour and stir the sand; you can also bury items for your child to find.  Playing with sand is a great way to experiment with volume by using containers to compare different shapes, sizes and weight.

Playing with water in the bathtub is enjoyable, but can be a lot more exciting outside.  A small pool or tub of water can lead to hours and hours of discoveries. Your child can experiment if objects sink or float and how water can cause objects to move and how they can get heavier when they are wet. 

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