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The Significance of Outdoor Learning in Shaping Happier Childhoods – The Nordic Way

by Belinda Breeze

Have you ever wondered why Nordic countries consistently rank high in childhood happiness reports? While many factors contribute, one important element stands out: Outdoor Learning. It is not just about spending time in Nature and the countries’ varied landscapes, but ‘outdoor learning’ also instills essential life skills, environmental awareness, and improves physical health and psychological well-being, contributing to the child’s early learning and future achievements.

The numerous benefits of outdoor learning are highly valued in the Nordic education system, recognising its contribution to holistic development. Key among them is the concept of friluftsliv, which is the Scandinavian tradition of embracing the outdoors, and demonstrating how this philosophy is integrated into their teaching and learning approaches.

The Essence of Friluftsliv: Embracing the Outdoors 

At the core of the Nordic philosophy of learning lies in friluftsliv – a term that loosely translates to “free air life.” This centuries-old concept embodies the deep-rooted appreciation for Nature and the outdoors, portraying the belief that regular contact with the natural world positively influences physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Friluftsliv is integrated into various aspects of daily life in the Nordic countries, encouraging children to spend time outdoors and fostering an understanding and appreciation of the world around them.

Educators incorporate outdoor learning experiences across various subjects and age levels, creating opportunities for learners to connect with Nature while engaging in meaningful, hands-on activities. From forest walks and exploration trips to outdoor art and science lessons, the natural environment becomes an extension of the classroom, offering unique opportunities for experiential learning and personal growth.

The All-weather Approach is also a key aspect followed in the Nordics while prioritising outdoor learning. And what exactly is the ‘All-weather Approach?’ Like the name says, it is all about embracing outdoor time year-round, with appropriate clothing and activities.

While the Nordic countries are increasingly adopting “forest schools” as a way to make Nature the teacher, their philosophies are easily translated across regions where children can be given the opportunity to experience and interact with their natural surroundings by making provisions for them to regularly spend time outdoors and appreciate the natural environment.

Spending time in nature offers a plethora of benefits for children, including:
1. Cultivating Problem-Solving Skills 

Outdoor learning experiences provide numerous opportunities for children to develop problem-solving skills, equipping them with the tools they need to overcome challenges and adapt to various situations. By engaging in activities that require collaboration, critical thinking, and persistence, children learn to persevere through difficulties and derive innovative solutions to complex problems. These valuable skills not only foster academic success but also contribute to their ability to navigate the challenges and uncertainties they might encounter in their daily lives. As they continue to engage in outdoor learning experiences, they cultivate greater self-confidence and become better prepared to face both obstacles and opportunities that lie ahead.

2. Promoting Physical, Emotional, and Social Growth 

Participating in regular outdoor activities enables children to engage in physical exercise, fostering an appreciation for fitness and promoting healthy growth and development. Research has shown that spending time in natural environments can reduce stress, enhance focus and concentration, and positively affect mental health. Socially, outdoor activities often necessitate teamwork and communication, fostering interpersonal skills and strengthening bonds among peers. These shared experiences enable children to develop trust, empathy, and mutual understanding, building stronger and more cohesive preschool communities.

3. Fostering Environmental Stewardship

An essential aspect of the Nordic way of living is encouraging children to develop a sense of responsibility and connection to the natural world. By regularly immersing them in Nature, educators foster a deep appreciation for the environment and its inhabitants, laying the foundations for responsible and sustainable living. Educators incorporate lessons on environmental preservation, climate change, and sustainable practices, empowering children to understand their role as global citizens and protect the planet for future generations. It is imperative to nurture a sense of environmental stewardship by equipping children with the motivation, knowledge, and skills needed to create a greener, more sustainable future.

4. Enhancing Lives Through the Benefits of Outdoor Learning 

Outdoor learning experiences form a pivotal aspect of early childhood education. By embracing the values of friluftsliv, young minds learn to connect with the natural world, developing responsibility and a deeper understanding of their role as global citizens and responsible leaders of tomorrow. As technological devices become more readily available, children are spending much less time playing outside. Consequently, today’s children spend significantly less time outdoors compared to previous generations. Outdoor play greatly influences children’s development and should be prioritised in early education. A setting that promotes outdoor play fosters a culture of holistic education and equips children with vital skills for success both in academics and later in life.

A love for Nature and the environment is ingrained in the pedagogy at Dibber International Preschools. Outdoor learning experiences form an integral part of their curriculum, encouraging children to organically connect with their surroundings to enrich their physical and mental growth.

With 600+ preschools in over 10 countries,Dibber is Northern Europe’s largest early childhood education provider. Headquartered in Norway, Dibber has over 2 decades of experience in the early education space. Having established its Norwegian roots and celebrated Nordic curriculum across the globe, Dibber is set to dive deeper into the education landscape in the MENA+ region with exciting developments in the coming years.

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