by Valerie Frost-Lewis, MS Ed., Owner/Director, Peppermint Tree Child Development Center
Think back to your childhood summer vacations…what were your best memories? Most likely they include sunshine, breezes and playing with friends outside. Were you building sandcastles? Catching fireflies? Collecting rocks? These are the experiences of childhood that imprint fond memories, and whether we knew it or not, this is when we started to learn how to be a good friend and got our beginning earth science lessons.
Children building forts, digging in dirt, scrunching leaves and making mud pies use their imaginations, develop problem-solving skills and learn about the natural world through this kind of play. They create whole imaginary worlds, plan story lines and negotiate roles with other children as they build their social skills.
In today’s high tech and busy world, child development experts are concerned that our young children are experiencing a disconnection from nature and are becoming isolated because of increased indoor play and time spent playing video games and watching TV. “Screen time” only uses the senses of sight and hearing, which is quite limiting in comparison to the full array of textures, weights, temperatures, etc., that children encounter when playing outdoors. It is also a solitary way of playing, so researchers are concerned that many of today’s young children get less practice with their social skills.
Young children learn about the world through feeling, smelling, tasting, seeing, and hearing everything that is around them. So, the more sensory experiences young children have, the more opportunities they have to learn and understand the world.
And when we allow children to play outdoors in nature, they can use all of their senses at the same time. They can sift their fingers and toes through the sand, hear and see the waves crash while also smelling and tasting the salt air. This sensory feast is an important reason that outdoor nature play is a valuable part of early childhood development.
It is based on this philosophy, the importance of outdoor play, that we have designed our summer day camp at The Peppermint Tree in Toms River. Children play outdoors in our park-like setting and can explore nature on our safe, fenced property. They can dig, build, hunt for worms, go on nature walks, swim in our pools, and play basketball, volleyball, go on scavenger hunts, paint at our outdoor easels, or enjoy crafts. Of course our air-conditioned building is available for young children’s naps and if it is too hot or if it is raining.
Our goal is to provide lots of choices, so the children are free to spend their day as they please, at their own pace. Just like we did in the lazy days of summer of our memories. If you would like your child to have this kind of a summer experience, you can learn more about The Peppermint Tree Summer Day Camp at https://www.pepperminttree.com/our-summer-program/
And, make way for outdoor play!
The Peppermint Tree Child Development Center, serving Toms River for over 35 years is state-certified and privately owned. During the school year, we offer a research-based curriculum developed for young, inquisitive minds. Classes are offered for 2.5 year olds through Kindergarten. Our highly qualified, dedicated and creative faculty has been with the school on average, for fifteen years or more, providing a warm and stable environment for the children. During the summer, the facility is transformed into an outdoor summer day camp, complete with on-site swimming pools, park-like grounds and an enriching activity calendar with appropriate offerings for children from 2.5 years through fifth grade graduates.