Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.
- John Muir
Here at Wellspring, you see “Learning Naturally Everyday” on our tagline and throughout our description of our building and playground. You may be wondering why we say that and what that means for your family.
To begin, it may be beneficial to talk about child development. Specifically, developing the child’s vestibular and proprioception systems. Then, talk about how our natural environment supports all areas of child development.
Vestibular Processing System and Proprioception
As children grow and develop, it is important we give children many opportunities to develop their vestibular processing system and their proprioception sense.
The vestibular processing system is the sensation of any change in position, direction, or movement of the head. The receptors are located in the inner ear and are activated by the fluid in the ear canals moving as you move.
Proprioception is the body’s ability to receive input through receptors in the skin, muscles, and joints, and transfer the information to the brain through the nervous system so that the body can sense itself. To put it simply, proprioception is the sense that tells the body where it is in space.
The vestibular processing system is connected to the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that controls coordination, balance, equilibrium, and muscle tone. It also helps develop eye movement reflexes, stabilize our gaze, and differentiate between objects.
Having a healthy vestibular and proprioceptive system means that children are able to move around safely, complete tasks efficiently, and be more confident in enjoying activities that involve movement, walking, jumping, and climbing.
Why a Natural playground?
Studies show that outdoor play encourages whole child development and provides ample opportunities for children to move about their space in a creative and expressive way. Children who play on natural playgrounds are more active, utilize both fine and gross motor skills, and engage in more bone and muscle strengthening exercises than on “traditional playsets”.
Children’s play and imagination are key for Whole Child Development. Natural environments are catalysts for rich imaginative play. Fun and adventure should be the number one priority when designing your playground, and a natural playground lends itself to be an organic and ever-changing landscape that naturally draws kids in.
A Child’s Space
Here at Wellspring, when you walk onto our playground, you will know that it is a child’s space. It will be messy, full of loose play parts, child’s artwork, plants, and games in the making. The playground is a space for the children to let go and play uninhibited.
Niches and Nooks
Pause places, like benches, chairs, and natural alcoves give the children space to relax and regroup or play a part of an imagination game, a bear's den, or base in a game of hide and seek.
Taste, touch, smell, see, and hearing are also part of the child’s development. The sweet scent of fragrant flowers, the twinkle of the windchimes, the bright greens and pops of color, the warmth of the stone, and the cool sticky mud bring rich sensory engagement to children of all ages.
As described above, it is important for children to develop their vestibular and proprioceptive systems. A diverse environment where children can lift, balance, climb, and run freely teaches children to control their bodies and objects in their world.
For healthy physical and brain development, children should be spending a significant portion of each day engaged in active and unstructured free play in an engaging, natural environment.
Wellspring is dedicated to the social, emotional, and academic development of every child in our care, all day and every day.
Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives.
- Thomas Berry