You don't have to look far on the net, or in the real world for that matter, to find plenty of examples of children enjoying the benefits of being outdoors. You would actually be hard pressed to find anyone who didn't support the idea of children getting out into the fresh air and playing. Think of the exercise they're getting. What about the sensory experiences that just can't be replicated indoors? An let us not forget all that natural wonder waiting to be explored.
And yet when the weather becomes less than desirable those same people begin howling that the children must get out of the weather. Now a part of me can understand when there is extreme heat such as that which we get here in Australia. Yet if we dress children appropriately, ensure they remain in shaded areas, are well protected with hats, sun block and have access to plenty of drinking water then it really shouldn't be an issue.
The same goes for colder weather. However, in this area I'm a little less understanding of why people are against children being out in the cold. I get there are circumstances when children may need to avoid the cold sue to illness or underlying conditions, yet the majority of children should have the opportunity to experience all types of weather conditions. Apart from being great sensory opportunities it's just plain FUN!
Snow isn't usually an issue here in Australia, but it still serves as a great example of how children can get out and explore the outdoors in all types of weather, even extreme cold. Yet there are those in relatively warmer climates who complain about the cold and demand children remain indoors when the temperature is in the teens Celsius.
However, for me you only have to look at these children at play in Norway during the Winter to gain an understanding that there really are very few weather condition that should keep children indoors.
In fact, I believe that if the children of Norway are able to venture out in sub zero temperatures then surely children elsewhere should be given the opportunity to experience play in conditions much more mild. Even the hottest of Aussie Summers should provide opportunities for children to experience short periods of time outside.
There had been a fundamental shift recently in early childhood education in Australia recently and the changes are ongoing. At the forefront of this is the first ever national early childhood framework - the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). Within the Framework there are a set of pedagogical practices that underpin what we as educators should be doing as we help children grow and develop. One of these, Learning Environments, includes the following statements:
Outdoor learning spaces are a feature of Australian learning environments. They offer a vast array of possibilities not available indoors. Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature. They foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education.
Now if this is within the document that all early years educators are meant to be using to guide their practice and there is still an alarming amount of professionals unwilling to make the shift, then are we setting our services up to fail? To fail the children and families they are entrusted to do their utmost to care for and educate?
I know for the most part I'm preaching to the converted here, but if I can connect with just one individual. Convince just one person, whether they be an early childhood professional, a parent, or some other party with a vested interest, then I will have done something worthwhile. And hopefully that once voice will be carried on the wind (while the children play in it of course) so that others may see the benefits of being outdoors in all types of weather.