July 27, 2016

Educating Children Outdoors (ECO)

Green Wagon

I’ve been reading for a while now about how important it is for children to spend time outside. This seems fairly obvious, but unfortunately kids are spending more time indoors than ever before. Elementary schools are limiting recess in order to have more time to prepare kids for standardized tests. Childcare centers are worried about liability and risk associated with play equipment. And then, of course, there’s screen time keeping kids indoors. Recently I came across a term for the movement (or one of them) that is focused on giving children more opportunities to play and learn outside – Educating Children Outdoors (ECO). If you are wondering why ECO is important, here are some of the many benefits:

  • Increases physical activity and promotes physical health
  • Improves balance, agility, and gross motor skills
  • Decreases sedentary habits
  • Offers challenges
  • Allows release of energy
  • Offers direct learning about science
  • Promotes learning through play
  • Provides opportunities to negotiate with peers
  • Builds confidence
  • Provides creative stimulation
  • Offers opportunities for self-directed play
  • Encourages problem solving and decision making
  • Helps children make friends
  • Improves socio-emotional and cognitive skills
  • Is a source of happiness
  • Fosters mindfulness
  • Engages the senses
  • Encourages respect for our natural world
  • Reduces stress
  • Calms high-energy children
  • Improves self-regulation
  • Prepares children for a later mindset of focus and concentration
  • Protects against anxiety and depression
  • Promotes sense of mastery, self-reliance, and independence
  • Improves emotional management skills, including management of anger and fear
  • Decreases social isolation and loneliness

Looks like it’s time to turn off “Fireman Sam” and take my kids for a bike ride.