Learning about the world through outdoor play

Children learn to make sense of their environment by venturing outside and experiencing the laws of physics and multiple sciences first-hand.

During playtime on a swing set or playset, a child can investigate the answers to such puzzles as, “Why do we slide down instead of up? Can shovels stand up in sand? Why is the part of the wooden swing set that is shaded by the roof cooler? Why does the sun move around in the sky? How can I make my shadow longer? And why do I go higher when I pump my legs faster on the swing set?”

Swing sets for kids emphasize principles of motion, a cornerstone of physics. Parents can use the opportunity to use words such as up, down, push, pull, back and forth to help a child develop language around motion, as a building block to exploring science.

Extensive research has determined the physiological, psychological and social benefits of connecting kids with nature. Studies show kids’ playtime outdoors increases the powers of observation and creativity and increases analytical, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Researchers have found that outdoor playtime also helps children integrate math, science, language arts and social sciences into their lives http://www.dimensionsfoundation.org/research/authenticplay.pdf.

As children get older, they may look at a slide as part of an experiment in testing momentum and gravity. They may try rolling a baseball or a table tennis ball down the slide to see which gets to the bottom faster. The surface on their slide on their swing set may be different from the one in the park which gets hot quickly on sunny days, and that may lead to questions, or discover about how different materials respond to heat.

Children can learn these lessons in other ways, but experiencing them in a backyard with tools such as swing sets, slides, playhouses and tunnels will make them more memorable. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner suggests that the value of learning in nature is that the learning is not bound to school settings, instead it is connected learning that is not separate from, but an integral part of life. http://www.childrennatureandyou.org/Young Children's Relationship with Nature- White.pdf

Just by playing on a swing set, slide, tunnel or playhouse and experiencing backyard fun, children are exposed to basic math, geometry, ecology, biology, sociology and many other sciences.

Kids think they’re just having fun. The fact that they are really scientists in a giant nature lab using themselves and their friends as subjects is an added bonus.