Here is an interesting blog entry from Dr. Laura about why daycare workers don't have kids playing outdoors much. Dr. Laura's blog post inspired me to blog my thoughts on this topic.
Why Day Care Kids Don't Play Outside
I recall my nephew with Autism was a problem for the daycare workers at one point because the baby and toddler normal desire to put things into their mouths stage lasted longer than typical for him. One day when my brother went to pick his son (age 2.5) up early and found him strapped in a stroller, with no one around him or interacting with him at all, outside. He asked what was going on and they said they couldn't keep him from eating the wood chip mulch so they would strap him to a swing or stroller and leave him there. They said it was a safety issue and that was what they did with the boy every day. My brother had no idea that was even happening, they didn’t tell him he was eating mulch and they didn’t tell him that they were restraining him and leaving him alone off to the side of the playground. My brother was horrified. That was the impetus for he and his wife to find a new group daycare facility for him.
I have a feeling the worry over the types of shoes or the outerwear the children wear is a liability issue. It is true; flip-flops are dangerous to run in, especially in wood chips, those shoes are tripping hazards. If a child without a coat goes out in the cold they leave themselves open for criticism from the parents, the very ones who didn't dress the kid right.
The fact of the matter is that it is not easy to keep an eye on a lot of children of young ages, even on a fenced in playground. It is impossible to push them all on the swing, help them down the slide, and supervise the climbing of the ladder and so on.
All children should be playing outside. Very young children need close adult supervision when playing outdoors, climbing up high ladders, when climbing the rope ladder, when learning to use the monkey bars, and they need a push on the swing until age 4 or 5 when they finally can propel themselves independently. The fact of the matter is that the adult to child ratio at daycare is too high for that type of close supervision and helping the children. Additionally having children at daycare mixed only with their same exact age mates puts them in a position of being around a lot of other kids but ones who are as incompetent as they are. If this were more of a family model with kids of mixed ages, or a neighborhood model, being around kids of a range of ages, the kids could help each other.
Dr. Laura was referring to playing outdoors at daycare facilities. Those usually are fenced in places with plastic, metal or wooden playscapes. Children also need time outdoors, running free in nature. Children should be playing on grass. Children should be in wild places, whether it is on an empty city lot with wildflowers and grasses or in the woods or in meadows. Children should be outdoors to experience rain, puddles, and mud. Children should splash in water such as brooks, streams, ponds, lakes or the ocean. Children should experience a sandy beach. Children should be able to run free in their neighborhood, to feel it is their territory and their home place, that they are familiar with and feel safe in. Children should walk and run and skip and hop. Children should be riding their bikes.
Daycare facilities who do allow outdoor play are still a poor representation of what children need. They don’t just need fresh air and playscapes, they need the wild places and to explore their own neighborhood and to ride bikes and to feel free. I wonder if the children who only get to be outdoors in the fenced in play yards of daycare facilities feel like caged animals? How can one not liken them to caged pets or zoo animals, trapped in and locked into a facility all day long, seeing the outdoors from what is nothing more than a big cage?
Yes, daycare is an artificial environment.
If you don't believe that daycare has problems, read the book "Ships Without a Shore: America's Undernurtured Children" by Anne Pierce PhD (read my book review here) or for a longer book just on daycare, "Day Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn't Telling Us" by Brian C. Robertson.
A book about the importance of children being in nature is “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. If you need ideas on how to explore nature with your children, check out the new book “I love dirt! 52 activities to help you & your kids discover the wonders of nature” by Jennifer Ward.
Voices From the Education Reform World
In the education theory world, about one hundred years ago, both Rudolph Steiner, who created the Waldorf (private) schools and Charlotte Mason, who created a new home education method to replace what she thought unacceptable academic conditions in schools--both recommended that children spend time outdoors and specifically in nature every day. Both felt that children should experience nature in all types of weather, in rain, snow, and in the cold. Yes, they should be dressed appropriately and kept warm and have a change of clothes if necessary when they returned indoors, but they should go out daily. Charlotte Mason still inspires many homeschooling parents today.
What is Happening in My Neck of the Woods
I’m thinking now about my homeschooled children, and the children we know with stay-at-home mothers. This whole discussion has me wishing again that the children of our neighborhood were allowed free reign to play with each other outdoors for hours on end without adult supervision, like I did when I was a child.
For now I have to rely mostly on a paid experiential nature class to get my children in the wild on a weekly basis, with other children. This is what we have come to with this younger generation, paying for a class so our children can have certain experiences. Another example of this is a local farm charges families so that the children can go to the farm, hang around there with the animals, observe farm life and do light farm chores. Yes, the parents PAY the farm so that the elementary grade children can do (light) farm labor. Unbelievable.
Books Mentions in this Blog Post
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