How Outdoor Play Can Prepare Your Child For Nursery School | My Baba

‘School readiness’ is a term used to describe whether children at age five are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and display the appropriate manners required to flourish in school or nursery school. Kay Hamid from our friends at Pentagon Play, discusses ways outdoor play can help with children’s huge transition from a nursery setting to a school.

What is ‘school readiness’?

It refers to how ready children are; socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually, to start school. These skills are of great importance and required to build relationships with peers, comply in the classroom, follow instructions and communicate needs to an adult.

Research suggests that children who are developmentally ready to learn, do better in school and this success is expected to continue into adulthood.

A ‘school ready’ child will be self-confident with their peers, socially able, inquisitive and happy in their setting. Kids absorb new information and learn best through play!

Outdoor learning and play are significant in supporting children to make the transition from early years education into primary school.

Social skills

The ability to play individually as well as with other children, demonstrates straightforward manners and can assert themselves.

How outdoor play can help:

  • Outdoor play encourages children to develop their social skills, promotes inquisitiveness and interaction with other children.
  • Parks and playgrounds expose children to a wider range of age groups, allowing kids from various backgrounds to mix with one another to problem-solve or bond over common interests and likes.
  • When engaging in outdoor play children will often work collaboratively to overcome obstacles, engage in role play or build dens. This reinforces teamwork skills vital for school and adulthood.

Emotional development

The ability to regulate emotion and work in a large group with reduced adult interaction, concentrates on activities, follows instructions from teachers, being able to adjust to a new school environment, and can comprehend and follow the rules.

How outdoor play can help:

  • Outdoor play imparts children with invaluable lifetime lessons, such as sharing and making friends. It is a great mode of learning to ‘wait your turn’, follow guidelines and a healthy way to deal with feelings or frustration and irritation.
  • A way of developing confidence in children so they can take on new challenges is, positive reinforcement; praise and reward good behaviour, whilst giving them enough support to take on new challenges.
  • As children feel better about themselves, they will likely persevere until they have perfected the challenge. This also teaches an important life lesson that hard-work and determination is the recipe for success.
  • Outdoor play with other children likewise increases awareness of the needs and feelings of others; empathy, teaching them to follow instructions and what is right and wrong? These will prove to be helpful when transitioning to school.
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Language skills

Displays good active-listening skills, speaks clearly and can communicate needs, understands stories, and starts to recognise letters and sounds.

How outdoor play can help:

  • Playing in a multi-sensory outdoor environment inspires children to engage in conversations, to express their feelings and amazement at the marvels and noises presented by their surroundings.
  • There is so much to discuss and talk about, and it is these chats that boosts the growth of their language, intellectual and problem-solving skills.
  • The outdoors can be very resourceful when teaching children literacy; letters can be drawn into sand, or made using sticks, interactive boards to draw out the letter and letters hopscotch, are just a few ways of preparing kids for school.

Cognitive skills

Basic number sense, basic thinking skills, waiting and turn taking.

How outdoor play can help:

  • The outdoor environment promotes inquisitiveness and curiosity in children, which encourages explorative learning, as multiple senses are stimulated.
  • When children participate in outdoor play activities, kids develop flexible thinking whilst they acclimatise to the changing environment. Outdoor play endorses the basic understanding of the world around them.
  • Physical play also requires a level of cognitive growth. Any adventuresome play requires the skill to evaluate the situation and make choices about the best way to continue.
  • Children also trial engineering ideas through den-building. Kids can practise basic math concepts while indulging in games such as hopscotch, counting when kicking the ball, or drawing numbers out in the mud and sand.

Physical health and coordination

Good fine motor skills (such as holding a pencil and turn pages in a book) and physical coordination and good gross motor skills such as; being able to run, jump, climb, and play ball.

How outdoor play can help:

  • An appropriate outdoor play environment can help children flourish. They can advance their gross motor skills, build muscle strength and refine co-ordination through engaging in a variety of challenges presented by equipment such as; trim trails.
  • When outdoors, kids can run, jump, skip and discover the natural world. Research suggests that constructive play is popular amongst infants and is effective in building physical skills.
  • Constructive play using sand and water play, providing a place for art, woodwork and blocks, wheeled toys, and lots of loose objects throughout the playground is the best way to advance physical skills.

Kay Hamid is an educational copywriter Pentagon Play who design and install outdoor learning environments for schools and nurseries across the UK.

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