A discussion was held at Lethbridge College on Tuesday about the importance of unstructured outdoor play for childhood development.
One of the topics discussed at the all-day symposium had to do with the importance of removing static, plastic playgrounds and replacing them with flexible, nature-based structures that have tactile, loose pieces.
“When children are engaged in natural materials and natural items during outdoor play, they’re able to use their imagination skills, critical-thinking skills and creativity,” said Bora Kim, an Early Childhood Education faculty member at Lethbridge College.
The college is taking steps to implement the outdoor play recommendations at its on-campus daycare: removing plastic toys from the outdoor play area and replacing them with tactile, loose parts – such as pieces of wood and pipe – to enrich children’s learning opportunities and to promote children’s health and well-being.
“If you can imagine a set of monkey bars, you can do a couple of things on there,” said Peter McCracken, a regional manager at Recreation Nova Scotia. “But when you have things like a mud kitchen or hay or loose parts in a natural environment, there’s a lot more creativity, there’s a lot more risk-taking and basically, it helps the brain develop.”