Learning from playing in the rain
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” (Linda Åkeson Mcgurk). The weather is often viewed as a deciding factor in venturing outdoors or staying inside, with the right gear and attitude, it’s usually worth it to get outside. Nature play, with its many benefits, includes natural learning experiences in the sunshine, rain, snow, and on windy days. While we don't get much snow here in Sydney there is so much scope for the imagination of our children!
As educators, we strive to develop children’s love of the outdoors and encourage them to find joy and curiosity in nature. Playing in the rain not only promotes children’s sense of wonder and freedom, but it also benefits their development and learning.
Learning through our senses: Hearing the rain hit different surfaces, feeling drops on our skin, experiencing the changing scents in the air, are different opportunities to engage our senses.
Motor skill development: Balancing on slippery surfaces and jumping in puddles are some of the great challenges and developmental opportunities while playing in the rain. This, in turn, promotes great motor skills (such as running and jumping), balance and coordination, bilateral coordination, and spatial awareness.
Prediction and estimation: Children learn through trial-and-error. Estimating and predicting the outcome is part of the cognitive-developmental process. Will I be able to jump from this puddle to that one? Am I faster than rain? The possibilities are endless!
Science: Playing in the rain provides children with an understanding of where the water comes from and how it impacts and affects the earth. We can extend their knowledge through making tools such as rain gauges, planting seeds, and filling containers (Williams-Ridge, 2013).
Meredith Burton encourages us to seek the learning that is available on rainy days. She reminds us that puddles are what you allow them to be. Have children hypothesize about the floating or sinking qualities of different objects. A leaf? How about a rock? Make some puddle soup with various natural materials. As children mix, pour, and measure, they develop essential mathematical skills and extend their use of rich language.
Rain makes music. It provides rhythm and sound for those who listen. This often stimulates children’s creativity and encourages them to find the beat as they sing along. The next time a rainstorm starts, bundle your kids up in the appropriate rain gear and head outside. As Cheryl Greenfield (2004) said, “Outdoor play provides open-ended, dynamic, varied opportunities which are unpredictable and at times risky. However, the risks and challenges of outdoors providing rich opportunities for learning, problem-solving, and developing social competence.”
Children use their environment to create play experiences without adult direction. We just need to give them the opportunities to explore and the freedom to live out their creations and ideas.