I have read a lot about the importance of spending time outdoors in nature for young children (as well as adults). We live in houses stuffed with everything and kids love running, jumping and large space more than anything in the world. Well, at least the first 6-7 years of their lives :).
If we think about children’s first 5 years, most of their development is physical. First we get happy to see them rolling from side to side, then reaching for things and holding rattles in their hands. Then comes the joy of crawling, standing holding on to things, walking. Almost all their milestones are something physical. First 5 years are so important to develop children physically. This is the time where they need most opportunity to develop their lifetime physical skills such as climbing, jumping, running and swimming etc. Their childhood don’t come back and it is hard to teach older ones to appreciate the nature and being outdoors if they are not trained from young age.
The importance of outdoors and spending time in the nature is emphasized by most home-school advocates and educators. Charlotte Mason, 19th century educator, encouraged all her students to spend great amount of time outdoors, noticing the changes in weather and nature. Her students kept a nature notebook and would record their nature collections. “Our forefathers and generations before them lived in the fields, had so much to do with nature and were in harmony with it. Our houses are small, no space and so artificial for young minds to develop” that was her talking in mid 1800’s. I can just imagine what she would say now.
Even in Montessori method, spending time outdoors developing multi-sensory and motor skills are mentioned time and again. Doman and Waldorf stresses the importance of being able to swim from young age. These physical developments and abilities make children more confident and make their brain more active. Very often we underestimate what children learn from by just going for regular walks or playing in playgrounds. Often they will invent things, collect things and come to conclusions about how environment, nature, trees, animals etc around them function through seasons.
So, one of the things when I pulled Sumayya out from school was to promise myself to give kids an opportunity to spend time outdoors, even if it is cold, rainy, snowy etc. They get to play in school playground regardless of all kinds of weather. So, I should be ok to send them out to the back garden or take them to local parks etc. Fresh air, green fields with farms nearby, nice walking routes and local parks… Alhamdulillah, we are very fortunate to live in such area. Alhamdulillah both kids love, I mean absolutely LOVE playing outdoors. Especially Sumayya.
Usually we have Qur’an session right after fajr. Then they have breakfast. After breakfast we do one of the Islamic Studies. (This year we are coverin Seerah/Aqeedah/Prophets’ Stories/Fiqh as part of our Islamic Studies) Our morning home-school finishes by 10-30 or 11am at most. Then they have outdoor playtime untill 12am, usually it lasts 30 mins up to an hour. I take them to an Islamic nursery for 3 hours between 12:30-3:30pm, purely for their English language to develop as it is not our 1st language at home.
For outdoor play time, I mostly let them play in the back garden. We have a trampoline where they can jump. But Sumayya is usually busy with her never ending projects- she collects sticks to make a nest; she is always collecting yogurt pots from recycling bin, takes them out, puts some grass and tiny leaves and fills them up with water and then leaves them to freeze. I saw this freezing experiment at friend’s blog and we covered water freezing/melting as part of our science lessons sometime ago. She likes talking to birds and listening to all kinds of animal sounds when outside. She loves collecting bugs too. Safiyya likes playing with her babies and toy pushchair. They often play pretend role-play games where one is mom, the other is dad and they have 2 babies etc. We love listening to their stories, every time they make up a completely different story. Sumayya is the author and director of such plays but it is my Safiyya that acts best lol. Alhamdulillah, they have different God given talents
We also stop by at local playground on the way to an Islamic nursery for 15-20 mins depending on the weather about 2-3 times a week. It is a nice place, they renovated it last year :). Safiyya likes basket swing best and then slides.
Sumayya loves climbing on huge spider’s web kind of thing and then keeps walking around spotting things for one of her science projects. She is always observing and asks questions about every little thing. (SubhanAllah, she always amazes me with her questions) If we have more time, I stop by at another big park (called Lister Park) near our house. It is just on our way to the nursery, not far from where we live. It has larger playing area, walking fields, fountains, museum and Art Gallery, massive lake with all kinds of birds etc. Both kids love going to that park and we go about twice a week. These pictures of park were taken in the summer.