On Saturday, May 2, 2009, over 120 child care professionals gathered at the Oasis Conference Center for 4C for Children?s “Bringing the Outdoors Back In” conference. Keynote speaker Ken Finch discussed the importance of unstructured play in nature to the physical, emotional, social and cognitive development of children and how it can be brought into the child care setting. Workshops on topics such as “Facilitating Inquiry and Unstructured Play in the Outdoor Environment”, “Natural Playscapes”, and “Way to Grow! Promoting Healthy Weights in Child Care Settings” provided participants with new ways of looking at outdoor play and how to use play spaces effectively. “I learned more than I thought I would – I have never been to a conference or workshop on the outdoors – it was wonderful!” exclaimed one attendee. Another commented “I just loved all the hands-on activities and the information on what we can do to improve our outdoor play areas”.
The conference, co-sponsored by Leave No Child Inside – Greater Cincinnati and the Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center, proved so popular that 4C is now running a series of follow-up workshops on “Nurturing Nature in the Wonder Years”, and at least one child care center is inviting their community to a program which will educate parents about the importance of unstructured play to the cognitive development of children. “Many of our parents believe that their children need more classroom time – they do not understand the importance of free play”. Leave No Child Inside – Greater Cincinnati is providing the keynote speakers and materials for that program.