Pram Jam with Beth – The importance of outdoor play

Spring is peeking around the corner, can you sense it? This isn’t just wishful thinking on my part, we’ve had a couple of lovely sunny days in between the very very wet ones, and the Nyungar interpretation of our seasons makes much more sense – we’re now moving into the season of Djilba, or first-spring. This is when we start to see yellow flowering plants ‘spring’ to life, birds nesting and become more territorial (look out, magpies about!) and the mixture of heavy dam filling rains along with sunny days (and still plenty of cold, cold nights…).

I wanted to use this shift in the weather to talk about how important outdoor play is for our children’s development and wellbeing. It becomes all too easy to spend days indoors when the weather is cold and wet, but the way that children play indoors contributes differently to development, and the temptation of technology is much easier to give into when we’re at home!

Yellow acacia flowers

The eye catching yellow blossoms of the acacia signify the shift from the Nyungar winter of Makuru into our ‘first spring’, Djilba

Image Source: Gary Ashley on Flickr, used under creative commons license

Getting outside and exploring movement and nature increases our babies’ brain connections, builds up their strength, develops both fine and gross motor skills, increases their curiosity and natural cause and effect knowledge, and all of these skills are vital to them growing to become confident readers and writers and future scientists and artists.

Outdoors play and natural STEAM lessons, celebrating National Science week.

Don’t we all want our kids to grow up and be problem solvers, creatives with solution focused brains?  STEAM is where we should be focusing then! Our little ones will grow up to be the engineers and mathematicians, the computer programmers and artists who fix the problems created by the generations of humans who came before them. But not before they get dirty and muddy and fall out of a few trees first!

Books about outdoors play.

My mixed up head is getting a bit confuddled about what books I’m recommending today, because really, I want to encourage you all to go outside and play! But, in the spirit of attempting to include some quality content in this blog, I’ve pulled together a list of science/STEAM/outdoorsy books for you to browse:

Minibeasts : a little book of minibeasts / Karabatzia, Villie, illustrator.

A perfect book to accompany a walk through the local bushland, minibeasts are endlessly engaging and our smallest crawlers love to get down and dirty with tiny beings on the same level!

Cover image for :  Minibeasts : a little book of minibeasts  / Karabatzia, Villie, illustrator.
Cover Image for:  Wild baby / Cori Doerrfeld

Wild baby / Cori Doerrfeld.

Ooh, this little orangutan’s antics are enough to give any parent grey hairs! This is a beautiful little book to share with your child, it explores the wild outdoors of the jungle and ends with a lovely reassuring embrace.

I saw a bee / Rob Ramsden.

The deceptively simple illustrations in this book give a great number of talking points to engage with young readers over. The bonus of yellow blossoming flowers throughout makes it a wonderful ‘first spring’ / Djilba title, even though the book is of UK origin.

Cover Image for:  I saw a bee / Rob Ramsden.
Cover Image for: Benny Bungarra's big bush clean-up / Sally Morgan ; illustrated by Ambelin Kwaymullina.

Benny Bungarra’s big bush clean-up / Sally Morgan ; illustrated by Ambelin Kwaymullina.

This beautiful book sparks so many questions for our little scientists! First of all, what’s a bungarra? How did all that rubbish end up in the bushlands? What can we do to help? Which bin does this go in? What happens once the rubbish truck collects the waste from the bins? The City of Cockburn puts a lot of work into waste education and this book is a great intro for the kids about what can happen if we aren’t responsible when we dispose of our rubbish.

Hey! Get out and play!

A (potentially?) controversial final word for this library staffer’s blog post this week:
What ever you do,  don’t sit inside reading today!

  • Get out of the house – take your little ones for a walk to spot some yellow blossoms and frolicking birds and insects.
  • Bring a change of clothes and let some muddy, soggy play happen.
  • Go to one of the City of Cockburn’s fantastic playgrounds and challenge your little one to conquer a new height, cross a wider gap or swing higher than ever before.
  • Encourage exploration and experimentation, embrace the questions (even when you don’t know the answer!) and find the STEAM links in our everyday activities.

You are your child’s first teacher and she will learn her love of learning from you, so even if you felt like you weren’t a science-y kind of kid yourself, try to re-frame your opinion of yourself as a scientist now and show your kids how much fun it can be. So many of our every day activities are science based without us really being conscious of it, and linking cooking, cleaning and gardening back to science is a simple matter of shifting our language and thinking, bit by bit.

Happy experimenting everyone, I hope that you all have a wonderful National Science Week.