Imaginative play. Calculated risk. Calm and focused attention.
These are just a few of the benefits of working outdoors and in nature. Bloom’s outdoor setting is the perfect place for kids to improve their sensory processing, motor skills, social skills, self-regulation, and so much more. Best of all, current research supports the use of nature as a context and modality for therapy!
Dowdell, K., Gray, T., & Malone, K. (2011). Nature and its influence on children’s outdoor play. Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 15,2, 24-35.
The study found in that in the outdoor early childhood center, as compared to an indoor center with artificial equipment, children were more likely to engage in imaginative play, sustain attention to one activity for longer, engage in small group play, and engage with nature than at the other center.
Fjortoft, I. (2004). Landscape as playscape: The effects of natural environments on children’s play and motor.Children, Youth and Environments, 18,2, 36-63.
When working in natural environments (involving a forest with rocks, shrubbery, trees, and open space) children ages 5-7 made significant improvements in gross motor skills, balance, coordination, and symbolic play.
Nedovic, S. & Morrissey, A.M. (2013). Calm active and focused: Children’s responses to an organic outdoor learning environment. Learning Environments Research, 16, 281-295.
The participants helped to design a garden that they would want to play in. The modifications improved their play skills and self-regulation. Play in a garden can help kindergarteners self-regulate (specifically, be more calm), slow down and notice details in a way they had not before, and engage in more positive social interactions and imaginative play. The increased dramatic play was influenced by the introduction of natural loose parts such as sticks and pebbles.
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
- Robert Louis Stevenson