2022 Fall Newsletter

When I look back at my favorite family memories, nature’s soothing effects are often involved. My newborn daughter’s crying in the evenings turned to calm when we walked outside. My toddler son’s delight as he creatively piled leaves on the very patient cat who lived next door. Both kids dancing and singing in the rain. Overnight camping where the bickering stopped, and everyone was happy and entertained without the use of screens. Trips to the river where joyous hours slipped by while tubing, swimming, and observing frogs, birds, and fish.

The latest educational research shows the benefits of outdoor learning for all children. When children play outside, they learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), develop social skills, create healthy habits of being physically active, reduce the risk of mental illness, sleep better, and experience hands-on learning in the real world. Time outside leads to both better learning outcomes and better behavior. Being outdoors lets kids burn extra energy, increases blood flow to the brain and decreases stress. When they come inside, children are more attentive, focused, and on task. As an Episcopal school, we see an additional spiritual benefit knowing that we are all a part of God’s Creation and loved by God. Not only do we learn to love and take care of the earth by spending time in nature, but it also leads us to understand something greater than ourselves and develop a deeper connection to God.

At All Saints’, we know that outdoor play is essential to the healthy development of body, mind, and spirit. The playground design has been improved to maximize the benefits of an outdoor classroom. There are more than the recommended eight different play areas, and indoor toys have been brought outside to encourage whole-child natural learning. We have a quiet area with books, large and small wooden blocks and giant Legos for STEM exploration, a play tent, sand kitchen, a dramatic play area with a large mirror, a fairy and butterfly garden, vegetable, flower and herb gardens, a music wall, outdoor easels, chalk wall, and of course, the classic and ever popular swings, a climbing structure, monkey bars, and a slide.

So how much time do young children need outdoors? Toddlers should be outside at least 60 minutes a day and preschool children at least 90 minutes a day. Some experts recommend that children spend three hours outdoors every day. Consider adding some new activities to your family’s routine including scavenger hunts, leaf rubbings, digging in the dirt, planting, obstacle courses, games, playing in the rain, doing art outside, taking photos or videos of discoveries or experiments, or starting a collection. You may find that like my own children, and the students at All Saints’, your child is happier, healthier, and more independent and engaged when they are in nature. My prayer is that we all find outdoor activities that make family life more fun, help children become lifelong learners, and encourage connection with God and nature.

Gigi Khalsa,
Head of School