Did you know a simple game of hide-and-go-seek can help develop problem-solving skills? Playing a game like this in the outdoors allows children to make observations, look for patterns and listen to discover where their friends and family might be hiding. Nature presents challenges for children; let kids use their own ideas to solve them. Such challenges can also inspire cooperation — kids may try solving those problems with other kids before engaging their parents, teachers or play leaders.
Time spent outdoors supports many aspects of children’s health. Below is a snapshot from Dr. Stephen R. Kellert of Yale University "Nature and Childhood Development." that cites the importance of nature play and how it relates to problem solving during a child's development. Also included is a statement from National Wildlife Federation and their findings from a 2010 survey.
Direct Experience in Nature Is Critical and Diminishing
Nature is important to children’s development in every major way-intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and physically. In his newest book, Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection (Island Press, 2005), Dr. Stephen R. Kellert of Yale University devotes a chapter to the subject of "Nature and Childhood Development." Combining his original research with well-documented references to the research of others, this chapter is a powerful synthesis of what we know, and what we do not know, about the importance of nature to children’s healthy development. Kellert states, "Play in nature, particularly during the critical period of middle childhood, appears to be an especially important time for developing the capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and emotional and intellectual development." He includes research to indicate optimal learning opportunities at age-appropriate times and differentiates between indirect, vicarious, and direct experiences with nature — with the latter less and less available to children. He urges designers, developers, educators, political leaders and citizens throughout society to make changes in our modern built environments to provide children with positive contact with nature-where children live, play, and learn. (Original Research and Synthesis)
Kellert, Stephen R. "Nature and Childhood Development." In Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2005.
National Widlife Federation Survey
While playing and learning outside may be more difficult to fit in a busy schedule, teachers need to think twice about saying, “Stop staring out the window and pay attention.” According to a March, 2010 survey by NWF of nearly 2,000 educators, 78 percent feel students who spend regular time in unstructured outdoor play are better able to concentrate, and 75 percent feel students who spend regular time outdoors are more creative and better problem solvers. Studies confirm access to nature in an educational setting has a positive impact on student focus and learning by improving attentiveness, test scores and performance.