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  • Michelle Hoefs

Embracing Nature: Tiny Turtles Gets Preschoolers Outside

Updated: Mar 1

In today's fast-paced, technology-driven world, children are spending less time outdoors and more time indoors glued to screens, making outdoor play for young children's development more important than ever. Enter Tiny Turtles, an outdoor nature preschool class that meets twice monthly on the Hunt Utilities Group Resilient Living Campus, offering a unique experience for children to connect with nature while learning and growing.

Tiny Turtles provides a place for children to explore, discover, and learn in the great outdoors. With its emphasis on nature-based learning, this outdoor preschool program offers young kids the chance to break out of the four walls that so often confine them. Here, children have the opportunity to engage with the natural world firsthand, fostering a deep appreciation for the environment from an early age.

But why is outdoor play so important for young children? There are many benefits to their physical, emotional, and mental health.

Outdoor play encourages physical activity and gross motor skill development. Unlike indoor spaces, outdoor environments provide ample space for children to run, jump, climb, and explore freely. This helps them develop their sense of balance, coordination, and strength, laying the foundation for a healthy and active lifestyle.

Psychologist Peter Gray says, “Children are designed by nature for vigorous physical play outdoors. It’s in their genes. It’s their nature.”

Also, exposure to natural light and fresh air is essential for children's overall well-being. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, important for both bone health and immune function. Additionally, spending time outdoors can improve sleep patterns and regulate circadian rhythms, leading to better overall health.

Emotionally, outdoor play offers children a sense of freedom. In the vast expanse of nature, children have the space to express themselves creatively, engage in imaginative play, and take risks within a safe and supportive environment. This fosters self-confidence, resilience, and problem-solving skills, as children learn to navigate challenges and overcome obstacles independently.

According to Ken Finch, founder of Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood, “Children need outdoor experiences every day to develop their creativity, imagination, problem solving abilities, and social skills.” Alliances are forged and friendships are born as kids hunt dinosaurs, build rocket ships, and concoct potions.

Furthermore, connecting with nature has been shown to have profound effects on children's mental health and well-being. Studies have found that spending time outdoors can reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Spending time in nature promotes relaxation, mindfulness and a sense of inner peace. 

Tiny Turtles integrates outdoor exploration with age-appropriate learning objectives. Through hands-on activities, games, and storytelling, children are introduced to concepts in science, math, language arts, and social studies, all while immersing themselves in the wonders of nature. Whether it's identifying different plants, building forts, or conducting simple experiments in the mud kitchen, every experience is an opportunity for discovery and growth.

Moreover, the outdoor setting fosters a sense of stewardship and environmental responsibility. By nurturing a deep connection to the natural world, Tiny Turtles instills in children a sense of respect and appreciation for the Earth and all its inhabitants. This lays the groundwork for future generations of environmentally conscious citizens who are committed to preserving and protecting our planet.

Tiny Turtles offers a holistic approach to early childhood education, where nature is not just a backdrop but an integral part of the learning experience. By embracing the outdoors, children are given the space to thrive physically, emotionally, and mentally, setting them on a path towards lifelong health and well-being. So let's step outside, breathe in the fresh air, and embark on a journey of discovery with Tiny Turtles.

The Spring 2024 session of Tiny Turtles begins Monday, March 11. Learn more and register here.


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