For child care providers in Denver, the warmer weather should have you re-evaluating your activity and interaction approaches with your children. Recent research done by the Seattle Children's Research Institute suggests that nearly half of all preschool children are not given the opportunity to go outside. The Colorado Department of Human Services, Child Care Division recommends that children get outside to play every day:
"The home program must include outdoor play for all ages each day except when the severity of weather, including temperature extremes, makes it a health hazard or when a child must remain indoors as indicated in writing by a health care provider or in a health care plan." Section 7.933 of the Family Child Care Homes Rules and Regulations Manual.
Being trapped inside all winter long is tough for anyone, but it is a special burden for small, active children. Here are some things to consider and ways to switch up your routine to get the kids exposed to more sunshine, Vitamin D, and gross motor skill improvement.
Follow School District Guidelines
If the weather is nice enough for the local elementary school kids, it is fine for your preschool children. This often means playing in cold temperatures or mild snow and light rain. Make certain the children are prepared for Denver's rapid shifts in weather. Keep an extra coat, dry clothing, and other essentials in each child's personal cubby area so they are not uncomfortable or left out of the day's outside play. This way if a parent forgets a necessary clothing item, you already have an extra on hand.
Do It Twice
Instead of 30-60 minutes of playtime all at once in the afternoon, consider breaking it up. Do morning play and afternoon play to keep it interesting. This also helps small children get those wiggles out and will help make them more focused for any learning activities that may happen afterwards.
Incorporate Outside Activities in Your Curriculum
Whether your learning activities are letter of the week style, themed, purchased curriculum, Montessori or some other brand of learning, find ways to take the activities outside. Can you incorporate water, bubbles or sand into what they are learning? Rocks, grass, trees, insects, birds? Sports? Get creative with your planning and look at your scheduled activities through an outdoors perspective.
Make certain your sunscreen is current by throwing out last years and asking parents to supply new bottles. Check your first aid kit to make certain it is well stocked. Keep the yard cleared of debris. Inspect your playground equipment. Spring is known for severe weather so practice your fire, tornado and reverse emergency drills often. Be certain to provide adequate supervision as excited children can get carried away easily.
Have Fun With It
Being outside can be great fun. Put together a teddy bear picnic. Host a field day. Do some backyard camping (even during the day this can be fun). Go on a bug hunt. Take a nature walk or hike around the neighborhood. Play a sport. Do some messy science experiments. Have a game day. Plant a garden. Break out the slip and slide or sprinklers.
With the abundance of benefits to playing outside, the goal should be to have the kids out there as often as possible. This is especially true here in Colorado where winter weather, which can last from October through April, makes it difficult to get the kids outside on a regular basis. When it is warm, the kids should be out in it.