From the four elements comes much adventure. From the earth comes an opportunity for digging, sliding, rolling, and running. With water, children can feel the pelting of the rain, or have the sensation of water, of spraying water or being sprayed by water. Children can wade into shallow water or feel water as it runs from an outdoor tap. Using gutters, they can create water flow, experiencing cause and effect. Children experience the wind when playing with kites and flags. Light and dark are also qualities of air. Light experiences at night are thrilling for children as they feel the power of lighting up the darkness. The air also produces sounds and with instruments made by children and otherwise, they can manipulate and produce various sounds (Knight, 2011). Learn more about the four elements and risky play by clicking on the words below each picture.
Tactile play is one of the earliest ways in which very young children learn about their environment and world around them. Tactile experiences provide children with comfort, knowledge, stimulation and pleasure. Many early learning programs offer children sand rather than mud, even though mud has so much potential. It is malleable. It comes in a variety of colours and textures. It encourages digging. It can be used for art and construction. Mud provides opportunities for slipping and sliding. If the risk of children putting mud in their mouths or hurting themselves while playing with mud is managed, the experience can be joyful (Knight, 2011).
Playing in Water
Playing in water can be soothing and fun but it also can be dangerous if the water is too deep. However, playing in the rain can be magical. Children also love to play in sprinklers and to spray water as they explore the flow of water. Puddles provide never ending potential for inquiry as they change over seasons and with the placement of the sun. Running water gives children a chance to discover how they can change the direction of water as it ebbs and flows, making gullies and water holes (Knight, 2011). Shallow water and beaches make for endless discoveries. When early learning teachers consider the element of water, they determine strategies to manage risk in order to provide all the benefits that water can bring to children’s play.
Outdoor Experiences That Include Fire
There are many benefits to outdoor experiences that include fire. Many early learning teachers around the world have developed strategies to manage the risk so that children’s lives may be enriched with this exciting element. Fire lighting with children is done with caution and careful planning. There are many points to consider (Knight, 2011), including the age and stage of development of the children involved as well as their prior experience with fire. There is still great benefit from watching flames and eating food cooked on a fire. With experience and confidence and low adult-child ratios, early learning teachers can involve children more fully (Knight, 2011).
We recommend following these ten points when considering bringing the element of fire to children’s outdoor play experiences:
- Position the fire carefully, considering the possibility of spreading
- Consider the surface that the fire is built upon as fires will scorch anything they are set on
- Use dry materials to burn
- Stack materials to be burnt to the side of the fire before feeding the fire
- Keep cooking fires small
- Only the cook should feed the fire
- Place kettles or pots on the fire or suspend them above
- Use cooking utensils with long handles to protect the hands and arms
- Keep fires small and manageable
- Put fires out thoroughly before leaving (Knight, 2011).
Air is an Essential Part of our Natural World
Air is an essential part of our natural world even though “we cannot see it except by inference from the movement of other things, and only touch it if it is disturbed, and smell it if there is an addition to it” (Knight, 2011, p. 32). Children benefit from adults helping them learn about a heightened awareness of air as part of the earth around us. Clouds, kites, flags and wind and stories about them can capture children’s imagination. Light and dark can enhance their awareness. Sounds in the air bring music to the outdoors. It is unlikely that children will be carried away by the wind so risk is manageable (Knight, 2011).
Instead of using the weather as an excuse to bring children inside, use these natural elements to enhance children’s play and learning experiences. Imagine that you work close to the beach and you and a colleague have brought a group of children to experience the element of air on a cool and blustery fall day. Watch and listen to this video. What experiences will the children have on that day? Will they feel excited, exhilarated and thrilled? Will they feel at risk? Is there risk to this experience?
Write your answers to these questions in the comment section