Play-Based & Outdoor Education

Kinderhaus is a Waldorf-inspired preschool and kindergarten.

We believe in the magic that’s created when children are allowed to play freely outside with their imaginations as guides.  At Kinderhaus we understand the beauty of mud-covered faces and the brilliance of digging in the dirt!

Children tap into their innate sense of wonder and desire to learn when they are given the opportunity to freely explore, discover, and play in nature. The learning that takes place serves their whole being: head, heart, and hands.

Healthy, Happy Kids Outside!

There is a growing body of knowledge – both anecdotal and scientific – that supports the idea that nature is necessary for the healthy development of children. Playing outside positively shapes the physical, intellectual and social-emotional development of children. Below are links to articles and quotes from the articles that explain why nature is so important in our children’s lives.

From The National Wildlife Federation

“Exposure to environment-bsed education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.”


From Nature Explore and Dimensions Research Foundation

“To adults the stick may appear lowly, or even invisible, but in the hands of a child, a stick can be anything. It is graspable, portable, and plentiful. It can be a storyline prop, a construction tool, an accessory to scientific inquiry, and a music maker. It might be humble and it might be free, but to a young child, the stick is anything but simple. We know this because children have shown us – in ways that never would have happened indoors.”

Source: (in the PDF: This Never Would Have Happened Indoors)

The Importance of Play

By Sharifa Oppenheimer, from the Spring 2011 Issue of Rhythm of the Home. A worthwhile discussion on why play, both indoors and out, is so critically important for kids.

Through Play the child creates herself.

Play is an amalgamation of alchemy and science, giving the child not only a magic wand, but also a powerful tool of experimentation. Here, in play, the child mixes a potent brew of their daily experiences as well as their wishes and dreams. Daily experiences are played — though not only in order to understand them, but also to change and transform them, and thereby change and transform the child. Any timid child who, in imaginative play, has built a little fort behind the couch, covered it with dark blankets and faced the terrors of the night, emerges from this game as someone new. A little ruffian who is set the task by a playmate to “look after the baby until I am back from the store” has a softer look in the eye upon his friend’s return. It is not unusual in my classroom for the boys to one day become intrigued by the games of domesticity often played by the girls. (Remember, gender identification is a major task for the four-year-old, and so each year our classroom experiences many births.) The civilizing influence of domestic life in the dress-up corner is a delight to behold.

Children also use creative play as a way to unravel life’s challenging experiences. A new baby in the family, a move across the country, a death of a grandparent; all become themes the child can work through again and again. What is this feeling I have? How can I express it? How do I make sense of it? How can I regain balance? If parents and teachers are sensitive to the child’s needs in these difficult times, we can dovetail with the child’s natural imperative to play. We can offer them curative stories in which, perhaps through animal characters, their own predicament is laid out for them to see, as well as a solution. These story images can act like seeds, informing their imaginative play and helping them explore new directions.

As children grow and their sphere of experience broadens, they are bound to interact with children whose behavior we parents wish they not emulate. Through play, the child has the opportunity to “try on” these less-than-sterling qualities, and if the play is well-supervised, to get the necessary feedback not only from the attending adults, but also from their playmates. Although it is challenging for parents, these opportunities are a rich source of growth for the child.


Let’s look at some other dimensions of Play

Play supports children’s physical development, particularly active outdoor play. Movement is the medium through which sense information becomes integrated, and the great wide world of the senses is food for our children’s brains. So, send your children outdoors, to freely move through the green world! Free, child-motivated play is the best for this whole-brain integration. In free play outdoors, all the muscle groups are engaged, and this whole-body movement helps all the varied regions of the brain to “communicate” with each other. Neural wiring is laid down in such active exploratory play. The life forces with which the child plays are the very same life-forces that grow and mature into thought. A well-integrated brain, with rich neural patterning, is the product of child’s play.

Play also supports children’s social learning. Children can explore the vast and nuanced realm of emotions within the context of play. It is not unusual in my classroom to have the children so completely “live-into” the emotions of the game that I need to stop myself and ask “Is it a game?” Sometimes I even have to ask the children “Is this part of the game?” Tears can be so real, or terror, or fury, or whatever emotion the game calls for. The child has the opportunity to rehearse these deep primal emotions in a safe and non-threatening way.

One very typical game-matrix children like and need to explore is the realm of power — who has the power, and how does one handle power? A ground rule I will articulate to the children as they play these games is “Everyone has to be having fun.” So, when the “captive” is calling for help from prison, I can check in with him: “Are you still having fun?” It amazes me how willing most children are to play out the balance of power, including being the underdog!