The Importance of Outdoor Play
December 2019


The Bienenstock company came to our center to provide some insight into natural playgrounds and the importance of outdoor play. They brought along new and exciting materials for the children to explore freely that tested various gross motor skills and promoted physical literacy! It was fascinating to watch the toddlers express themselves on the playground with these new materials. We observed their capability and competency to complete various obstacles around the outdoor environment.

Adeline was instantly drawn to the ratchet straps that were attached to the log posts. She struggled to reach the upper strap and Vanessa stood beside her, holding her hand until she grasped the strap. She then pulled herself up, balancing her feet on the lower strap. She discovered how flexible the straps were and began to bounce up and down, fostering balance and coordination while also strengthening her core and bicep muscles. Adeline enjoyed this activity so much she repeatedly would climb up until she was able to get on to the straps without assistance!

Henry found the pipes and balls that were set out on the hill. Tobias and Lucas joined him, each choosing balls out of the basket and exploring cause and effect as they popped the ball into the pipes and watched them roll all the way down the hill! Watching the balls roll down the hill also explores gravity, trajectory, and measures distance.


toddler boy exploring corrugated pipes

Another activity set out was a plank of wood propped up against a bale of straw. Aveer walked over to the wood and was a little hesitant about it. With assistance he was able to make it up the plank to the top before turning to jump down. Devyn observed Aveer doing this and tried herself, making it all the way up the plank by herself! She fostered a sense of pride, accomplishment, and expression as she clapped for herself! Added to this activity were some branches off a pine tree, giving the ground a new texture and surface to land on as the toddlers challenged their balancing skills further.


toddler child practicing balance


Child size wheel barrels were brought in as well and Willie fostered problem solving skills as he tried various ways to get the wheel barrel to balance and move. It took some time but he finally discovered that if he placed his hands lower on the handles, rather than near the end, he would get a stronger hold and was able to push the wheel barrel without it toppling over.

Jill also taught is the importance of keeping thumbs and fingers in the proper holes of mittens and gloves. She taught us a neat trick using old socks- by cutting a hole in the heel and toe area and slipping them on top of mitten it encourages the thumb to remain in the hole enabling the toddlers to have more free movement with their hands, causing them to be more engaged in outdoor play! The toddlers even had the chance to practice putting mittens on themselves, teaching them self-help skills.


toddler girl pulling on a sock mitt


This became especially useful in the sandbox while playing with frozen ice chunks that we broke up with wooden mallets. By having our thumbs in the proper spot we were able to grasp and pick up the ice and use it in our pretend play.

Outdoor play fosters so many developmental milestones and skills. One thing we learned was that outdoor play is essential to literacy development! Did you know you need core strength, balance, coordination, and muscle strength in order to develop literacy skills? By participating in free flowing, unstructured outdoor play children have the ability to foster all of these skills and more! We are so thankful for all the work Bienenstock did on our playground and can’t wait to implement these new ideas into our outdoor environment!




Contact Us

55 Hammet Street
Cambridge, Ontario
N3C 2H5

Hours of Operation
6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

(519) 220-1148


portrait of lisa

Lisa Rintoul, RECE

Headshot of Tracey Ruppenthal

Tracey Ruppenthal, RECE
Assistant Supervisor