Growing up I was very much the tomboy. Forever having skinned knees and dirt beneath my nails. Not until recently did I realize how much I learned during my childhood because of that. Somewhere in the stage of growing older, I lost that childlike carefree feeling that dirt is good, even fun.
That brings me back to today. It’s funny how toddlers can change your whole perspective on life and learning. That it can be messy and that’s okay. I have discovered a new found love of the outdoors through their eyes. I even get excited about seeing things that I took for granted on a daily bases. Simple things, like a bee on a flower, an airplane passing above and all the different rocks one can find in their own yard. (His first experience with Honeysuckle)
I’ve even learned new things from the questions they ask me while outside. If you weren’t aware, toddlers are full of questions! Lol My son is often curious about bugs we find or the type of plants we come across on nature walks. I always try my best to answer his questions. If I don’t know the answer, he informs me that I need to ask The Google. Haha Got to love technology! When he gets really interested in a topic and has many questions about it, then we head to the library and check out books on that topic.
The sheer magnitude of how much a child can learn from just being outside playing is sadly being dismissed in this day and age (but that’s a whole other topic that I’ll save for a later blog). Getting messy and dirty is all part of outdoor learning and play experiences for kids. For kids, playing is learning! I am all for giving my kids an extra bath if that means they have experienced or learned something new. If my three year old feels more creative by using his hands and feet to paint instead of a brush then so be it. If playing in a puddle teaches him about water displacement, then great! I’m thrilled when my one year olds hand eye coordination improves because she enjoys putting gravel from the driveway into a bottle. And if getting sand down their pants teaches them that it will itch and be uncomfortable, even better, life lesson learned on their own. (Digging for worms and bugs)
So often we think of getting messy and dirty as a negative thing. Sure we need to teach kids that there is time and place to stay “clean”, like heading to church or eating out at a nice restaurant. But expecting them to be spotless all the time can mean depriving them of many learning opportunities.
I have recently become more and more passionate about this particular topic. I’ll update you all as I learn and practice more with child-led and outdoor learning with my kiddos.
I would love to hear more from you all about this topic. What are your thoughts and experiences with a more child-led, outdoor learning approach? Especially when working with toddlers and early grade school children.
For now, I’m going to throw on my active wear and head outside to get messy and learn with the kids. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Plaid, Pearls and Toddler stains