Aside from being mood-enhancing, a spring thaw can do wonders to enhance learning. That’s why it’s so important to get our kids outdoors. (Especially after our brutally long winter this year!)
Being out in natural surroundings when the world is beginning to re-blossom truly engages all the senses. Things smell fresher. The light makes everything come into clearer focus. The chirping of baby birds is music to our ears. And, we feel the sun’s warm embrace. And it’s no different for our kids. Their senses can become sharper and more stimulated these days too – but only if we send them out to play!
Back in the 5th century BC, Greek philosopher and teacher, Heraclitus figured out that knowledge comes to us only through the door of the senses. His idea was that when the senses are stimulated, the mind is more likely to absorb new information and ideas. Contemporary educators at all levels are totally on board with this idea—it’s the basis for what is known these days as the Multisensory Approach to instruction. In fact, one of our key Montessori principles is that children learn through sensory-motor activities. Seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement are important activities that we promote in our learning environments.
It’s been scientifically proven that when the introduction of a new idea is combined with sensory stimulation, that particular idea will be more easily retained. And while most of us respond more strongly to one sense over another, when it comes to knowledge retention, we benefit the most (just as Heraclitus theorized) when several senses are engaged at once. This is why the great outdoors is an awesome learning space for kids: it offers so many more varied opportunities for multi-sensory stimulation than the limited indoor world does.
The best part? When they’re outside, our kids don’t think about the lessons they’re absorbing—they’re just having a great time running around and getting dirty!
To get you started, here’s my top 10 list of super-sensory springtime stuff for kids. Most likely, you won’t need to give much direction to your little guys… they have a natural instinct for this sort of thing!
Top 10 Super-Sensory Fun Activities:
- Marvelous Mud: touching it, smearing it, jumping in it, smelling it, sculpting with it.
- Catch Critters: from fuzzy caterpillars to crusty ladybugs to squishy worms.
- Wet ‘n Wild: dancing in rain, jumping in puddles, touching the dew.
- Neat Stuff: starting a collection of cool rocks, sticks, feathers, or leaves.
- Tree Hugging: stroking the bark, climbing the limbs, feeling the shade.
- Play Peek-a-Boo: discovering hidden secrets under a big rock, log, or even under an old piece of lawn furniture!
- Eye-Spy-in-the-Sky: simply lie down and look up! Daytime: clouds, birds, butterflies. Nighttime: stars, moon, fireflies.
- Ant Stalker: following a single ant it to see where it goes, what it eats, how it behaves.
- Earth Movers: digging and tossing sand or soil—remember, hands are better than shovels!
- Green-Thumb Fun: planting flowers or veggies… see, smell, taste the results.
So what are you waiting for? Click off the TV. Power off that iPad. Grab your kids and out you go!
Image: Puppy and Girl in Spring courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.