Returning to Our Natural Roots: Learning to Love Nature with Children (A Workshop Series for Early Childhood Educators)

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Phillips, Natalie
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Play is essential for the health and development of young children. The environment where children play can influence the quality of their play experience. The health and cognitive benefits afforded to children while playing in natural settings are well-documented. The forest, with its many natural features, is an ideal location for children’s play. It provides opportunities for a variety of beneficial play experiences. Other outdoor spaces containing natural elements are beneficial for play, provided there are natural features that children can explore. Young children are not getting enough time to play outside in nature. Many factors contribute to children losing time to play in natural settings. Access to outdoor spaces has become limited for children and adults who care for children are reluctant to take them to places with natural elements. Children are becoming more and more sedentary, and are viewing screens from electronic devices for up to seven hours per day. Child physical and mental health has been negatively impacted because of the steady decline in outdoor play. Early childhood educators [ECEs] can help reverse this trend by providing the children they care for ample opportunities for unstructured play in natural areas. Many ECEs feel uncomfortable outdoors, and as a result, provide limited opportunities for play in nature. Early childhood professionals need knowledge about the benefits of play in nature, as well as skills to increase their confidence when taking children to outdoor play spaces. ECEs can play a valuable role in improving the health and wellness of children, by providing them with opportunities for play in natural spaces. They need training to ensure they have the ability, knowledge, and desire to take children to natural spaces frequently. There are limited opportunities for ECEs in Nova Scotia to become trained in the knowledge and skills needed to provide high-quality outdoor play experiences for children. This workshop series will help ECEs in Halifax who are reluctant to take children to wilder places feel more comfortable and confident doing so. The six sessions will take the participant from simple to more challenging activities when working with young children outdoors. The desired outcome for this series of workshops is that ECEs will gain skills and confidence taking children to natural play spaces.
play , child development , physical health , mental health , early childhood education , early childhood educators