It is generally found that outdoor play has a positive effect on boy’s behaviour and there is a move to introduce as much outdoor play as possible to encourage their learning and development. The general concern has been that they will only be interested in tractors, diggers and running around, causing as much mayhem as possible. But with planning practitioners can engage them much more in activities that will stimulate and interest the way they learn, playing to their strengths.
Research shows that the male brain is predominantly hard wired for understanding and building systems, they love taking things apart to see how they work. Boy’s visual systems are also more attuned to movement, location and direction than they are to colour or texture. They learn best when they can move around and experience things physically.
Settings must provide boys with opportunities for learning that engage them. Bans on ‘war, weapons and superhero play’ will leave boys feeling frustrated and deprived of valuable learning opportunities.
• Practitioners can utilise boy’s interest in superhero play to encourage them to create worlds for aliens to live in. Other role play activities can include setting up a garage, wood workshop. The bikes and trikes can be used as vehicles such as the post office van and police car.
• Use guttering, pipes, funnels, tubing, hoses, crates and boxes to create opportunities for exploring, experimenting, connecting and building.
• A big open sand pit provides lots of opportunities to build and construct. It offers opportunities for number work (finding buried treasure) and small world play, creating desert landscapes.
• Providing opportunities for digging is great for encouraging gardeners or simply for role play ‘people at work’, garden landscape workers or construction managers. Clipboards and pencils give opportunities to practice language and literacy, making notes directing their workmates with instructions.
• Set up an outdoor exploration zone – use magnifiers, collecting pots, notepads and pencil. Encourage children to find spiders, worms, slugs and other minibeasts.
Some practitioners spend a great deal of effort trying to engage boys into activities that do not immediately engage them. Young boy’s brains mature in a different sequence to those of young girls and, in some areas at a slower rate. By creating the opportunities that capitalise upon boy’s interests, practitioners will make it easier for them to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and competence.