Thoughtful Parenting: Outdoor play |

Thoughtful Parenting: Outdoor play

Outdoor play is a staple of summer. Children laughing and running and digging and pedaling are heard and seen in backyards and playgrounds almost everywhere. While you witness all that fun, what is not as obvious is all the brain development that is occurring. Ninety percent of all human brain development occurs in the first 5 years of life. The more active engagement your child has with learning by doing, the more neural networks he or she will create and strengthen in his or her brain.

Outside is a great place to be active.

Moving over, under, down, through, above, against, behind, towards a climbing structure or hula hoop in your yard or at the park gives your child a real grasp of the meaning of prepositions and geometry concepts. For more preposition ideas, click here.

When your child has a chance to physically demonstrate action words, such as creep, bounce, plod, slither, soar, streak, waddle, hurry or scramble, word comprehension is immediate and long lasting. This learning is meaningful, as opposed to being a list of vocabulary words or a collection of letters.  (For more movement concepts, click here.

Draw a map of your backyard together. Notice all the plants, trees, structures, even sprinkler heads (count them), and place a representation of them on your map. Overnight or when the kids aren’t looking, hide one or more treasure items. Then, mark an X on the spot. Draw a path around the yard, using spatial concepts — beside, over, under, around, between — allowing your children to use his or her body to make meaning of those ideas.

Bring nature into your child’s creative art. Take a nature walk, and gather flat objects such as leaves, grass, petals or small rocks. Arrange them on a piece of absorbent paper. Use the small rocks to weight them down. Using spray bottles filled with food coloring or liquid watercolor (wear old clothes or a smock), gently spray the paper, being careful to not drench it. After the papers dry, remove the small objects, and decide where to display your beautiful, nature print. If you use a really big piece of paper, you could paint a family mural.

When it rains (let the monsoon afternoon showers begin) and no lightening or thunder  is in the area, go outside in your swimsuits and dance or run around in the rain, catch rain drops in your hand or in your mouth or into a cup or bucket. Then, look for the rainbow.

Enjoy summer with your child. Making memories while growing your child’s brain — it just doesn’t get any better than that!

Tami Havener is executive director of the Family Development Center, which includes Discovery Learning Center. Discovery Learning Center is a child care center with preschool and prekindergarten classrooms. Call 970-879-5973 to learn about limited openings still available for the upcoming school year.

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