Spring is a welcome season here in Tennessee with the budding of new flowers and the emergence of warm weather. The season is typically filled with delight for young children as they participate in egg hunts, picnics, and outdoor play, as well as relishing baskets of goodies with plenty of
chocolate! The season is also a perfect time to optimize your child’s healthy growth and development by getting them outside to move and explore. Let the weather assist you to nudge your children away from screens and into nature.
Movement is as fundamental and essential to children’s healthy growth and development as loving care, rest, and nutrition. Active movement is not only a stimulus for physical growth; it also provides children with an outlet for expression, creativity and discovery to learn about themselves, their environment and others.
In the first five years of life, children’s bodies and brains grow rapidly. We can’t see it happening, but inside their small bodies massive changes are taking place in their bones, muscle tissue, nervous system, immune system, circulatory system, and brain architecture. In fact, by the time a child reaches the age of 5, 85% of their brain has developed and all of their fundamental motor (or movement) patterns have emerged. The first five years of life set the stage for everything a child can do and understand in the next 80!
Movement stimulates and contributes to all of these critical developments. That is why it is essential young children are able to take advantage of spring to explore outdoors and practice their budding large and small motor skills. There are many ways children do this naturally when they play at a playground or in their backyard alone or with other children. Time for solitary exploration and cooperative play with other children is critical for their brain and body development. Outdoor play and games are an important way for children to develop autonomy and problem-solving abilities, as well as oral language and social skills.
It is also important for children to experience positive interactions with adults through movement and play. Take this season’s opportunity to:
- Go on a listening walk with your child. There are all kinds of sounds to be discovered outside. Listen for, imitate, and then talk about the sounds that are all around.
- Take advantage of spring showers that leave perfectly sized puddles for jumping, stomping, splashing, and giggling!
- You can even accomplish your own tasks while having fun by working on spring cleaning together. Give your child a soft cloth or small duster and let them help, or let them practice collecting sticks and planting seeds outside. Through ordinary chores and tasks, children learn autonomy, cause-and-effect, empathy, and perseverance – all skills they will need to master to do well in school!
In short, take some time to include your child in activities this season to make them fun and encourage them to play outside. Here are some ideas from our friends at NAEYC. Search for a few that work for your family and enjoy watching your child delight in spring and sprout up with new life. These seemingly small investments made now add up to a lifetime of joy and success for your child.