Daily Outdoor Play: Ordinary Moments in the Rain

Because we live on the west coast (or the wet coast), we are faced with some rainy weather at times.  At these times it would be easy to stay inside where it is warm and dry.  It would be easy to avoid helping children change out of wet clothing.  It would be easy to find things to do inside like art, music and other indoor activities.  Sometimes, however, the easy path does not bring the greatest rewards.  So let’s examine why a preschool teacher would take the class outdoors on a rainy day…

My main reason for taking children outside is to provide  daily physical activity:  This strengthens the heart and lungs, reduces blood sugar levels, controls weight, strengthens bones, helps prevent cancer, regulates blood pressure, improves energy levels and enhances a sense of emotional well being.  Here’s a link if you’d like to read more on the benefits of regular physical activity.   http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/10-benefits-of-physical-activity/

By being outside we can also provide more opportunities for children to take risks which can result in greater feelings of confidence and competence.  We give children an opportunity to appreciate nature.  As you will see from my example, the outdoors and the elements of nature have a way of bringing children together.

We don’t really get a lot of puddles in our preschool play yard.  It takes a lot of rain to make the puddles.  When we do have puddles, it is almost like there is a magnet that draws children together.  On rainy days (and all days), there are different types of children.  There are the types that love to be outside no matter what the weather and don’t mind a bit being wet.  These children could stay outside for long periods of time and not even notice being wet or cold.  Then there are the types that like to be indoors better.  When it rains (and sometimes when it doesn’t), they stand and watch the others or ask when it is time to go inside.  As a teacher, I can totally appreciate the different types of children.  At the same time, I love to stretch them just a little beyond their comfort zones to try things they might not ordinarily gravitate towards.  In this case, playing in the rain.IMG_2657

The photo above is one of those “rain children”.  One who loves to be outdoors and gets great joy from splashing in the puddles.  You might not see this when she first arrives at preschool but once she gets busy, there’s no stopping her!

The next photo is a combination of children who love being outside and puddles as well as children who are happier with indoor pursuits.  The water really drew them in here.  One child looked at the puddles and the leaves and got an idea.  She tossed a single leaf into the puddle.  Somehow, this seemed like a good idea and many more children started bringing leaves to toss into the puddles. The act of tossing leaves into puddles helped them make connections and become part of the larger group play.

IMG_2661 It was interesting to watch the leaves float along on the water. After awhile, one child decided to look for the bottom and she tried to push the water away until she could get to the bottom of the puddle.  She really wanted to know how deep it was.  All of the children became part of the puddle play; children who love rain and children who don’t. Did some of us have to go a little outside of our comfort zone?  Yes.  

I think in the end, whether they like rain or not, the children felt a sense of togetherness as well as a sense of well being.  So was it worth getting wet and having to change clothing and dry off afterwards?  I would say YES!!  I hope you would too.