Self-Regulation & The Outdoors

Self-Regulation & The Outdoors

Self-regulation – what is it might I hear you say? For those working with children, self-regulation has developed into a buzz word as of lately. More so in early years, the proposed changes to the current curriculum have self-regulation as a key goal for children to reach at the end of reception class in Primary School.

Before I delve into the benefits that outdoor play has on developing self-regulation in young children, let me explain a little about what self-regulation is. Dr Stuart Shanker (2019) defines self-regulation as:

“The ability to manage stress and the neural processes that control the energy expended to deal with a stressor and then recover. When an individual’s stress levels are too high various systems for thinking and metabolic recovery are compromised. The signs of dysregulation show up in the behaviour, or mood, or attention, and physical wellbeing.”

Understanding self-regulation is key to developing personal, social and emotional development skills in children and young people. Self-regulation is simply the ability to control one’s impulses and for us to manage our own behaviour.  There are endless opportunities for children to explore their ‘set-point’ (that is the moment a child assesses and reacts to how they are feeling) outside.

In an outdoor environment, children are not limited by the walls of a classroom or home environment. Children are able to use the space and develop their imagination, enhancing cognitive skills and self-regulation. At Woodland Tykes, activities are open-ended and flexible, meaning there are no expectations or pressures to do things in a correct way. Resilience is developed through controlled risk-taking activities such as climbing, bushcraft, campfires and unsteady ground for babies just starting to walk.

During experiences in the outdoors, children are able to play and learn with new materials in a stimulating setting which often relates to real-life situations. Children are able to follow their unique interests and skills, which allows all children to shine regardless of their abilities.

As we know, the outdoors gives us the freedom to explore what nature has to offer and for us to grow in confidence and self-esteem. There are certain stress factors – such as noise, space, temperature and air movement – an indoor environment can prove to hold that an outdoor environment does not. A stimulating outdoor space extinguishes these factors and provides a home to develop children’s self-regulatory abilities which, in turn, helps children thrive in their Personal, Social and Emotional Development.

A stimulating outdoor environment provides a space that allows children to continue to develop their self-regulation skills. What’s more, children who find it harder to self-regulate in an indoor provision can bring themselves to self-regulate much easier in an open space.

Through The Ages:

Woodland Tykes provides sessions for children aged birth – 11 years. Take a look at the ‘sessions’ tab in the menu on our website for more information about what we offer.

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