Children who play outdoors, instead of being in “cages” avoid stress and anxiety.
I bet as an adult you would like to go back in time to feel like a child again.
Ask yourself this question, why do people share photos from their childhood on social media all the time?
I see it everyday in my classroom. Children are naturally more uncomfortable when limited by four walls than when they are outside, learning and playing.
Whether it is learning a language or geography, the acquisition of knowledge is more natural and more enjoyable if it takes place in an environment that does not limit a child’s ability to learn.
Do technologial tools make up the deficiencies that the typical classroom presents? Maybe. Sometimes. But the traditional classroom, composed of four walls and a board, regardless of whether it is interactive or not, are simply not enough to promote learning.
Do good, well-prepared, funny teachers make up for the limitations of the traditional classroom? Sometimes. But even the best prepared teachers cannot compete with nature.
Did you know that prison inmates spend more time outdoors than many school-age children? In some cases, they spend almost twice as much time outdoors than children who attend schools and who are instructed in the traditional way.
In particular, outdoor time in contact with nature has been reduced considerably, spending more than 90% of that time in enclosed spaces.
The correct development of the child needs movement since birth and the easiest and most interesting way to move, is playing outdoors.
Neuroscience explains why Children must learn in open spaces
The nervous system serves to move, the rest of the thousands of pages of a manual of neuroscience are subordinated to this fact of the so relevant nature.
It is something extraordinary, as it is beautiful complex. The ultimate function of a living being is to reproduce itself, for which it needs to approach certain stimuli, such as the possible partner, and move away from others, such as predators.
The sensory and emotional subsystems are at the service of the motor subsystem, which in turn is related to an approaching or distancing behavior.
We can verify it in daily life. If we step on something sharp in the pool, we instinctively lift the foot.
If we are attracted to someone or something, we approach little by little.
Also, if we do not like a situation or detect a danger, we move away. Everything is moving, then.
Our brain dedicates many neurons to carry out that function.
A large area of our hemispheres in our brain, specifically, the primary and secondary motor cortex, is dedicated to motor control.
There are neuronal nuclei called striated. They are located in the cerebral depths. These nuclei are dedicated to the planned movement od the being.
Also, the cerebellum, which is located in the back of the brain, is another fundamental structure for movement.
There is also a complete subsystem called vestibular, that ensures balance in all our movements.
The Impact of Learning and Playing outdoors in adult life
During early development, our species gradually learns to move in an increasingly sophisticated way, which means that it learns to manage the subsystems involved in that movement: the sensory, the vestibular, the cognitive and, of course, the emotional. And that learning is done in childhood through play.
Many functions of the nervous system have temporary windows of neuroplasticity, where sensitivity is critical for its optimal formation. For example, walking and talking in the first three years.
The alteration of plasticity during critical periods of development is implicated in many pediatric neurological disorders.
These windows are based on learning the game in all its variants.
Some functions are physiological, such as the vestibular nervous system, which, as we have explained, performs within the brain the function of balance and which needs stimuli for its development, since otherwise the child’s mobility will not be optimized and he will be afraid of any challenge that involves displacements in height, speed, turns or sudden change of position.
The bruises, wounds and scratches are, then, a right of children when it comes to learning. Moreover, pretending to avoid them at all costs can produce cognitive and emotional deficits for a lifetime.
Playing and learning outdoors helps modulate Aggression and Empathy
Have you as a parent or an observer found out that children behave better after a day of playing and learning outdoors?
Playing and learning while playing must be the main activity of a child.
It is what their brain expects: games and more games, especially related to physical activity and preferably outdoors.
You can play alone – besides, the brain also needs to learn to get bored – and, above all, in company.
The more heterogeneous the ages of children who play, the better it will be for the development of personal relationships, the modulation of aggression or empathy.
Anyone who has dealt with children, will have observed what their preferences are and how they enjoy when they go to the swings, let alone to amusement parks.
The speed, the turns, the feeling of danger caused by heights, the challenges of balance. All this is very attractive for the child, because what we are doing is taking his brain to the environment where we have evolved over millions of years and to which we are adapted.
We have lived in cities for a few hundred years and evolution has not been able to adapt our organism to live in them.
When a child plays outdoors preferably in a natural environment, the brain thanks him with an injection of happiness.
Are there any risks? Of course, that is living.
By nature, children do not have an excessive awareness of the past or of the future, they live in the moment. Its main activity is to play.
Playing a game will promote that our son learns to move with skill, not to hurt himself, to assess situations in an appropriate way and, when there is no other remedy, to be aggressive and above all to be with the appropriate measure, respecting as much as possible the values learned.
There, the family environment plays a fundamental role.
That is why people say that children do not go to school to be educated. They, in the best scenario, go there to play, to socialize in their own ways. They do not go to school to be educated; at most, they go there to be instructed.
Education regarding respect, empathy and values, to cite a few, must happen at home. This is the only time when being inside four walls and a roof seems to present an advantage to a child’s learning process.
Can you teach a child values outdoors? Sure! But, sadly, parents do not have the time to do so. They lend their children to maids, neighbors or worse, the traditional educational system.
Given neuroscience’s explanation of the positives of playing and learning outdoors, why do bureaucrats insist on mandating confination for children of all ages? Why are playing tag and running being labeled by school administrators as dangerous?
Why isn’t the traditonal education system listening to what neuroscience has to say about how children should grow up?