5 innovative approaches to physical activity in kindergarten

June 24, 2015 4 Comments »
5 innovative approaches to physical activity in kindergarten

If your kids are coming home from preschool or kindergarten dirty, exhausted, and full of stories of the running and climbing they did that day then they might go to one of the schools listed below. All of these schools are outside of our typical North American experience of kindergarten; the majority of these schools hold all their lessons outside.

Right around the globe, there are some pretty interesting things happening in early child education. And changes are happening right here at home too. It seems that new thinking is taking hold about what really gives kids the best start when it comes to their schooling. It will be interesting to see what else becomes available across Canada in the next few years.

Check out these 5 different approaches that each value physical activity, nature, and the whole child.

1. Fuji Kindergarten, Japan

“Anyone who has kids knows they like to run in circles” says architect Takaharu Tezuka. Have truer words ever been spoken? In his Ted Talk, Tezuka walks us through the thought process behind the most unique approach to kindergarten I’ve ever seen. His love of children and his belief that architecture can change the world have come together to create something truly inspiring.

Make sure you watch until the end to see how active these kids are each day. We love that the key components are constant access to the outdoors, unstructured play, and risky play; and that these kids rank #1 on their athletic ability even without any coaching!

2. The Point Preschool, Oyster Bay, Australia

Imagine sending your kids to this preschool, which boasts an outdoor classroom with an amphitheater, a fairy garden, a frog pond, a worm farm, vegetable gardens, sandpits, and lots of natural discovery spaces. Each day includes activities based on the children’s interests including, “art, puzzles, blocks, dough, dramatic play, writing corner, construction toys, learning journals, computer, books, sand, active and imaginative play, gardening, story telling and music.”

3. Cedar Song Nature School, Vashon Island, Washington

What does a completely outdoor forest kindergarten look like? Pretty idyllic. At Cedar Song, on Vashon Island, Washington, their slogan is: “Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls” (the quote comes from founder Erin Kenny). They believe that, “[b]eing outdoors provides [children] with not only fresh air, it encourages imaginative play, creativity, hand-eye coordination, balance, physical strength, and mental clarity.”

4. Forest Kindergarten, Copenhagen, Denmark

It’s not right to talk about forest schools without mentioning that the Danish have been running forest kindergartens since the 1950s. A Toddler in the Trees is one American mom’s account of her experience sending her toddler to a forest school in Copenhagen.

5. Equinox Holistic Alternative School, Toronto

Canada’s first outdoor kindergarten program believes that when children learn in a kinaesthetic way, they embody what they are learning. Sandee Waite, a teacher at the school, said on this and more on a CTV News story about the school.

What do you think? Would you send your child to one of the schools above? Why or why not? We want to hear your thoughts. Please join the conversation in the comments below, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

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4 Comments

  1. ania @ a toddler in the trees June 25, 2015 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for the shout out! We’ve had a great experience with the outside kindergarten here, especially with all of the outdoors time every day. We’re lucky in that we have them here in Denmark but we’re hoping to inspire kids to get just a little more time outside at school even if they can’t attend in a full on forest school. And I loved learning about other approaches to this around the world!

    • Sara Smeaton
      Sara Smeaton June 26, 2015 at 5:16 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Ania! I also hope that more outdoor time can be incorporated into schools even if it’s not full time in a forest. Your blog is so inspiring and informative, particularly your last post demystifying the bathroom process! :) Thank you for your work.

  2. Ute Schulte Ostermann June 25, 2015 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    In Germany, we are very happy that there is a natural and forest kindergarten movement that is growing every day! For preschoolers there is no better place than nature, especially the forest. Here children learn intensively and better than the normal kindergartens. The children in the forest are healthier than other children, thanks to adequate exercise, fresh air and the ever-changing challenges that offers nature. We are very excited about how this forest kindergartens go around the world! 2018 Federation of Nature and Forest Kindergartens in Germany (BvNW http://www.bvnw.de) will carry out its second international congress. We then look forward to guests from around the world.

    • Sara Smeaton
      Sara Smeaton June 26, 2015 at 5:25 am - Reply

      That is very exciting, Ute. Thank you for letting us know about the international congress. How wonderful that forest kindergartens are spreading globally!

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