Under threes outdoors

Play, learning and development

It is a delight to watch Siren Films’ new series, Under Threes Outdoors – Play, Learning and Development. (To learn more, visit their website) What a privilege to get glimpses into the lives of individual children who personify the marvel of life and learning that is so bountifully supported by the outdoor environment.

The first DVD is about babies, the second about toddlers, and the third about two-year-olds. It’s lovely to watch even the youngest babies respond to the feel of the breeze and the interplay of light through leafy branches. They develop their sense of feel as much with mouths and feet as with their hands. Toddlers’ bare feet notice the tactile differences of grass, pavement and prickly gravel, of wet and dry, warm and cold. They learn so much from the variety the outdoors provides: the up-and-down of slopes and uneven ground; the sensory experience of streams and puddles, sand, mud, gravel and leaves; the excitement of dropping pebbles into water – and the mystery of dropping them into drains!

One of the best aspects of the series is the warm relationship each of these little ones has with their mother or key person. Clearly this bond provides the secure base from which all exploration takes place; young children need both nurture and adventure. The babies’ communication with mum happens through eye contact, facial expression, babbling and gestures. As they mature, communication is increasingly verbal.

Some of the video clips follow one child through several stages, allowing us to observe the amazing changes that happen from one month to the next.

These three DVDs were produced in conjunction with early years consultant Jan White who believes children should spend as much time outside as possible. Outdoors they develop their sense of balance through swinging, rocking, tilting, teetering, tipping, spinning, jumping, bouncing, sliding, and running. Jan says they have a 'deep biological drive for such experiences' and seek them constantly. In order to develop a working-together of their whole body and brain, children naturally engage in pushing, pulling, stretching, hanging, carrying... actions where their muscles encounter resistance. That’s why young children love to dig and sweep.

Toddlers like to manipulate objects, often through repetitive actions like stacking and knocking down, filling and dumping, transporting, poking fingers in and out of holes... The outdoors provides excellent materials for this: pebbles, acorns, sticks, fir cones, seashells, to mention a few.

Watching these little people, we realize how inseparably their cognitive and social development – and their imagination – are linked with their physical experiences and achievements. There is too much in these vignettes to briefly recount, but anyone who works with young children – or hopes to – will benefit from watching them, gaining increased understanding and awe for the miracle of child development.