Posted by Dani Gurrie in Articles on Sat, Nov 8, 2014
Playhouses, sandpits and garden tools are some of the best outdoor toys for young children because they allow for self-directed, open-ended play. Child-initiated play is fast disappearing from early childhood all over the world, with educators observing an increasing inability in young children to self-initiate play and sustain it, if given the opportunity to do so.
According to a report published by the Alliance for Childhood in 2009, play “is now a minor activity, if not completely eliminated in the kindergartens assessed,” with an average of around 30 minutes a day allocated for kindergarteners to engage in free play.The urge to play however, appears in young children with such elemental force that one can compare it to the natural necessities of eating and sleeping.
Self-directed play is simply allowing a child to direct their own play by setting up a flexible and safe environment where they can fully explore their potential through play.Children are continually constructing new knowledge based on how they choose to use and explore their environment and the toys or objects they use and play with.
Outdoor toys that are dynamic and open-ended, as opposed to static, stimulate a child’s imagination and creative thinking through their multi-functionality.Dynamic outdoor toys can be as basic as sand, water, clay, pebbles, branches, logs, art easels and ropes. Setting up uncluttered outdoor areas with wading pools, sandboxes, structures like treehouses or playhouses, slides, swings and monkey bars are all fantastic and give your child the opportunity to go as deeply into the self-directed play as possible.
To set up a space that is most suitable think about how it can allow for ease of exploring, building, creating and playing that is safe and requires minimum adult supervision. Children gain an enormous amount of empowerment and fulfilment when they learn to do things on their own, while encouraging them to play in the fresh air supports their natural rhythm of sleep and wakefulness.
- Things to climb and balance on
- Things to swing on
- Things for sand and water play
- Things to get into and under
- Things to jump on and over
- Things to kick, throw and aim for
- Things to build with
- Materials for pretending
- All materials that are located indoors can be used outdoors.
Open ended toys can also be collected on outdoor adventures, such as little baskets of acorns, pinecones, seashells and so on. Take walks with your children, collect treasures from nature and have fun setting up an outdoor play-space for your child that incorporates a myriad of props that are sure to stimulate their imagination.
Katrina Lezaic is a freelance journalist based in Sydney who currently writes for Yogee Toys. As a mother of two, she especially enjoys writing about family, children and other related topics.
About Dani Gurrie
Dani Gurrie is the founder of Tots2Tweens, a wife to Ashley and mom to Cooper and Brodie. She spends most of her days trying to find the ultimate kids-related thing that mom's will love...just to share it with her world.