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Why we need to play outside

Outdoor play, finding worms

Our children love to be outdoors---year round. They crave the ability to run, jump, and explore. They want to connect with nature, feel the sand, touch the tree bark, find worms in the dirt, and follow the path of an ant or butterfly. Developmentally, they begin to take risks, create things, push limits and adventure together. They are fascinated by the blooms of a flower or the new green leaves on our bushes and trees. They collect tokens such as acorns, rocks or a special tree branch that they want to bring home to share with you—treasures from their exploration. Their joyful noises blend in with the melody of the birds in the trees around them. This is not just for fun, the research shows this outdoor play is considered critical to their future health and success.

According to the research, there are several key factors that make outdoor play critical for the healthy development of children:

  • Outdoor play provides opportunities for large and small gross motor play through physical exercise building cardiovascular endurance.

  • Outdoor play encourages an appreciation of nature through free time to explore, manipulate, and experiment. This can lead to healthy lifestyle choices in the future.

  • Outside play allows children to learn and experience their world. They begin to wonder things about nature and ask questions. How can I swing higher? What is that smell outside today? Where did this acorn or leaf come from? These outdoor experiences build on a child’s learning in the classroom with math, science, ecology, seasons, construction, and farming.

  • Being outside, breathing in fresh air and playing, gives children an opportunity to recharge and let off steam. This type of play increases student’s ability to focus and work in the classroom after being outside.

  • In a world where children’s experiences are more structured, controlled and contained there is a basic need that is fulfilled for children through opportunities to explore the unknown, the unpredictable, and spend time investigating.

Tricycle Play

Planning and providing for our students' outdoor play needs is a complex and challenging task. Our Parish Day School team is committed to making your children’s outdoor experiences an extension of what is happening in the classroom. Our playground supervisor rotates playground materials, manipulatives, and activities by the season and classroom curriculum.

Some things you might see outside on our playground for children to explore….

  • Mural painting, splatter painting and spin art out by the fence

  • Planting, gardening and watering plants

  • Car tracks and car races

  • Dress up with magnifying glasses and binoculars

  • Bubble Stations and bubble tables

  • Sidewalk chalk

  • Tracking animal tracks

  • Watching for turtle or lizard eggs

  • Bird Watching and bird houses

  • Leaf and bark rubbings, pressing leaves and flowers

  • Mud Puddle exploration and looking for earth worms

We love the Community Playthings Blog about the Importance of Outdoor Play for Children.

Another exciting outdoor play opportunity is with the Tinkergarten program. These are outdoor classes lead children through exploring nature through play. Tinkergarten lessons are engineered to help children develop a range of essential physical, cognitive and social-emotional skills. These skills help them become ready to learn, ready to thrive and ready for anything. Learning is designed to create experiences to inspire wonder, activate the senses, leverage brain science, draw on wisdom of the ages and unleash the talents of our passionate network of educators, parents and caregivers. This program is a wonderful complement to the outdoor experiences happening at Parish Day School. Register at for a free trail for you and your child.


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