In her article, “The Language of the Senses: The Power of Sensory-Rich Outdoor Play and Learning Spaces for All Children,” Jena Ponti-Jauchius shares this:

Something interesting happens when a child enters a natural environment, whether it is a park playground, an outdoor classroom, or even their own backyard. A child initiates an unspoken conversation with their environment, and it goes something like this…

A child “asks,” “Hey, environment, what will you offer me? What will I experience here? How will I play and spark my imagination? How will I know I am safe? What will I learn from you? How may I grow here?”

We are always dialoguing with nature, though as adults we tend to be less aware of its magic and power. Children’s dialogue with nature is a state of deep and complex development. Their internal quest is to gather as much information as they can. Theirs is an innate childhood drive to seek out constant, high-quality (i.e. natural) sensory experiences. The more information they take in, the more information they have about their external world, and the healthier their growth and well-being.

Reflection

Considering a familiar outdoor (or indoor) space for children, how would you respond to the questions Ponti Jauchius poses on behalf of children:

  • “Hey, environment, what will you offer me?
  • What will I experience here?
  • How will I play and spark my imagination?
  • How will I know I am safe?
  • What will I learn from you?
  • How may I grow here?”

Exchange Press is committed to supporting early ­childhood professionals worldwide in their efforts to craft early childhood environments where adults and ­children thrive - environments that foster friendship, curiosity, self-esteem, joy, and respect; where the talents of all are fully ­challenged and justly rewarded.

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