The Importance of Tactile Play Outdoors – Guest Post by Leila Balin

Leila writes a personal, nature inspired blog at Mud Marvellous Mud. She is passionate about connecting children to nature and writes about her son’s experiences as they explore together. She is trained to Forest Schools and Beach Schools level 3 and is currently studying for an Open University Open Degree.

Follow her on twitter @MudpieMama or on Facebook

Tactile Play
Tactile Play

Little Man goes to another place when he gets involved in tactile play. I lose him for a while whilst he fully immerses himself in the material and how he can work with it. He becomes the Little Scientist I know he is and really starts to discover new things about the world around him. I love watching the concentration on his face as he moves the material, feels it and experiments with throwing it, transporting it and mixing it. You can see as he works all the skills he is developing ,including his fine motor skills, by collecting material in tubs or rubbing it between his fingers.

It’s amazing how tactile play, especially if I’m not involved, brings on his language as well. He babbles away to himself while he works as if he is talking himself through each process. It really is wonderful to watch.

Recently he was very confused by something that he had dropped into the water and instead of sinking it floated. He kept pushing it and pushing it to no avail. In the end he shrugged his shoulders and carried on. I don’t know if this was a sign he had finally understood that it floated or not but it shows how he had recognised something different about the item and then used what he knew to try and get it to behave the way other items in the past had. This to me is evidence of his ever growing problem solving skills. Less and less he is getting frustrated when he can’t do something and more often he is working around ways to solve these problems.

Giving our kids the chance to get messy and really feel, touch and smell different materials affords them a real opportunity to make sense of their world. They build their knowledge about how things work and they apply this to their daily lives. Their intelligence grows and they become more confident assessing situations they encounter. I think once we reach adulthood and play becomes less important to us we lose the knowledge that we can learn about things by experiencing them. We start to think it’s all about reading or being told things, but the magic really happens when we truly experience it, through all of our senses.

It’s funny but Little Man seems to be using taste much more now than he did when he was tiny. Everything ends up in or near the mouth at some point and most of the time this is fine with me. He will spit it out if it tastes horrid, which more often than not it will. I will often give him food to play with outdoors, like rice crispies, lentils or oats and the strange thing is he doesn’t tend to try these. It’s as if he knows and recognises what they taste like so he doesn’t need to explore them in this way.

Tactile play exploring lots of different mediums and materials from grass to water and from mud to rice is a great learning opportunity for kids and provides endless play opportunities for them and what better place to play and get messy than outdoors! There is less mess stress outdoors and so many free tactile experiences available. So this weekend or after school get outdoors and get messy with your kids. Watch their little faces as they delight in discovery and lose themselves in their own little worlds.

Thank you Leila, for such a lovely and inspiring post

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