ECA Blog

Is it really important for my child to play outside?

Summer is almost here and that means it’s a good time to go outside and enjoy the weather.  But kids should get the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors year-round.

Outdoor play has a tremendous influence on all kinds of development, from physical and emotional to social and emotional.

  • Being outside encourages lots of movement including running, jumping, throwing, catching and skipping.
  • Being outdoors requires kids to use their touch, sight, sound, scent and even sometimes taste, along with their major muscle groups.
  • Outside play is typically more unstructured and inventive, not only leading to increased cognitive development, but teaching social skills and building self-confidence.

So to answer the question – YES it really is important for children to play outside!

Warmer weather usually means more time outdoors.  However, don’t forget to keep kids safe!   Sometimes it is not safe to play outside due to the heat.  Child Care Weather Watch has information on when it is comfortable to go outdoors to play, when you should use caution, and when it is dangerous.  The pdf does a nice job of explaining the differences of each level and addresses both warm weather and cold weather.  Great reference if you are in the least bit unsure.

Another good reference is the CDC article Make Summer Safe for Kids. Read about ways to keep your family healthy during the summer.

Have a Great Week!


Screen Free Week

Do you worry that your children are watching too much television, playing video games, or using tablets and computers?

If you do, then you are not alone.  I too worry about my children.  When Hank was little I was very diligent and did not allow him to watch much television, and we didn’t own a tablet.  Since he is older, I find that I have become much more lax in my restrictions and therefore my daughter has been exposed to screen media at a much, much earlier age.

Screen-Free Week  –  This is an international celebration where children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days turning OFF entertainment screen media (work and school assignments not included) and turning ON life! It’s a time to unplug and play, read, daydream, create, explore nature, and spend time with family and friends.

This year my family is going to observe National Screen Free Week.  As a family we are not going to be watching television and videos, or playing games on tablets or computers.  I am also only going to be using the computer for work, and therefore while I am at home this means that I am not going to be engaging in Facebook, or using my smartphone to look on Pinterest.  My husband has been urging us to start limiting the media our children are exposed to and this is the week we are going to start and get serious.  Here are some important reasons why we are participating:

Did you know?

  • On average, preschool children spend 32 hours a week with screen media! (TV, computers, video games)
  • Screen time for children under 3 is linked to irregular sleep patterns and delayed language acquisition.
  • Toddler screen time is also associated with problems in later childhood, including lower math and school achievement.
  • The more time preschool children spend with screens, the less time they spend engaged in creative play – the foundation of learning, constructive problem solving, and creativity.
  • Children who spend less time watching television in early years tend to do better in school, have a healthier diet, be more physically active, and be better able to engage in schoolwork in elementary school.

I don’t expect this week to go off without a hitch. Unfortunately my kids are used to being able to watch a beloved show in the afternoon, or play on the tablet every once in a while.  What this really means is that Mommy needs to be prepare and have activities ready for during the day that don’t involve the television, videos, tablets or computers such as going to the library, doing crafts, cooking together, singing songs, reading books, making and completing an obstacle course, and much, much more.  In the evening when Daddy gets home, we are planning on having a game night, a puzzle night, storytelling night, and if the weather permits, a family walk night and a family bike ride night.

Check out the  for ideas on how your family can participate!

Have a Great Week!



Sandbox Fun

This morning I was watching my two kids having a wonderful time playing in the sandbox.  Hank is using his construction toys to scoop up sand on one side and move it to the other.  Faith is having a blast using a shovel to scoop sand into a pail and then dumping it out when it is full.  It made me smile seeing how happy they were exploring, and it made me remember the fun I had as a child with my own brothers. Do you remember playing in the sand as a child?  Whether it was at the beach or in your own backyard, sandbox fun has been a staple in childhood.

Since Hank was little he has loved to play in the sand, and now that she is old enough, so does Faith.  By chance, we have neighbors that gave us a HUGE sandbox for our backyard to use during the summer.  We are also fortunate that my brother gave us a big tractor tire sandbox for our garage to use on a rainy day and during the cold weather.  And if that wasn’t enough, we have a tabletop sandbox (just a tub with play sand inside) that we use inside as well.  Needless to say, not a day goes by in our house without one or more of the kids playing in a sandbox.

I don’t mind the sand traipsing in from outside or the garage since I know that sand play promotes an abundance of learning and skill building opportunities.  When I was teaching preschool I always made sure that we had either sand or water play available for the children each day to enhance development in many ways:

  • Physically through eye-hand coordination and fine and gross motor skills.
  • Cognitively through creativity, investigation, observation, problem solving, and expanding math, language, and science concepts.
  • Socially through cooperation, sharing, taking turns, communication.

Sand play can also be emotionally beneficial to children.  I know that when my son is upset, sometimes sandbox time is just what he needs.  Playing in the sand calms him down and lets him work out his frustration.  It is a coping mechanism for him that really seems to work.


Making The Most of Sand Play from Early Childhood News – a good article called that explores the role of sand play in a classroom, the teacher’s role, and a nice list of suggested accessories for sand play.

Extensions Newsletter from Highscope – this issue contains great information on using sensory play (including sand) with children.


Have a Great Week!