Experts say we need to let kids get dirty and get hurt as part of growing up
You've heard the statistics: kids are spending more time indoors and on screens, and less time playing outdoors.
Some experts say we need to reverse the trend for the good of our children and some educators gathered in Fredericton on Thursday to discuss the benefits of getting dirty.
Horticulturists and childhood educators gathered for a unique, interactive seminar on how to build outdoor environments and experiences for kids.
“We've gone so far to protect kids from things, from accidents, and we've forgotten that in a lot of cases, some injuries are learning injuries,” said Jim Landry of Landscape NB/PEI.
Adam Bienenstock, an outdoor enthusiast and expert in the field of early childhood development, believes injuries play a big part in how kids learn.
“Mostly, the problem is that people are freaked out by the idea that kids should be taking risks in that play,” Bienenstock said.
Often, parents limit their exposure to outdoor activities and instead, keep them indoors and in front of a screen.
Bienenstock sees how detrimental that shift has been for early development.
“Increasing bullying, increase in aggressive behaviours,” Bienenstock says. “If we get outside and play, all that stuff gets better.”
The conference's itinerary includes getting the adults outside, and climbing logs and stumps, blindfolded and barefoot. It’s all about getting an immersive hands-on and feet-on experience – an experience they hope kids will get too.
“That's how they learn to assess risk,” said preschool centre director Lori Nicholls. “They learn, ‘oh, if I do that, I am going to get hurt,' where if they don't learn that when they're younger, they don't have that assessment when they're older.”
Nicholls' preschool centre employs alternative learning methods, such as painting with marshmallows and bringing the outdoors indoors.
“We can bring sticks inside, we can bring the snow inside, we can bring whatever you want, so they can still get the sensory experience,” Nicholls aid.
That all has its benefits, says Leslie MacNeil, an assistant director at a preschool.
“Not only for your gross motor development, but fine motor development, getting off energy,” MacNeil said. “We're finding less behavioural issues with kids outside.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jessica Ng.