How Outdoor Play Leads to Success in Learning

We have been focusing on the value of free play outdoors and how the physical activity impacts brain development, efficient communication between areas in the brain, and thus a child’s ability to learn successfully.

This blog post continues the theme of outdoor free play as we touch on the importance of outside play as it relates to healthy eye development, which in turn also leads to increased abilities to learn.

There are two issues to consider:

One is the development of the eyes themselves as they are constantly moving, scanning the environment during play. This kind of physical experience causes the eyes to develop fully which relates directly to a child's later ability to track while reading.

The other issue is the fact that the 3-dimensional visual experience afforded by outdoor play stimulates all regions of the brain, and any time a child is engaged in an activity that does this, learning will be rich and neural networks in the brain will flourish. This is a very good thing for learning!

Touch is critical to vision

Vision involves more than seeing:

According to Carla Hannaford, PhD., only 10% of vision occurs in the eyes themselves. The other 90% of visual processing relates to body movement and the sense of touch.

On page 48 of her book Smart Moves, Hannaford states, “The eyes need to actively experience the world as a whole for vision to develop fully.” Because she is a neurophysiologist as well as an educator, Hannaford is in a position to speak to relationships between a child’s development and learning!

For full vision to occur, information from all the cerebral lobes must be accessed.

As a child is playing outside fully experiencing objects through all their senses, the whole brain is active in acquiring and storing rich information that adds to the information the eyes are collecting. Information such as size, shape, color, texture, and other physical and sensory characteristics.

An illustration in a book or on a screen cannot come close to the experience a child gains visually from being outdoors and in direct contact with nature.

When children are exposed to 2 dimensional screens and books in place of outside free play, the necessary eye development does not occur as it should. Lack of proper eye development results from a shortage of outdoor play, and lack of proper eye development is linked to difficulties with reading.

The benefits of outdoor play are too numerous to recount. One thing is for sure, whether or not we know scientifically what is happening in our child's development, we DO know that outdoor play, and plenty of it, makes or breaks our child's development and later his or her experience in school! Help your child love learning!

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