P. Marjanen, S. Holck, T. Viskari

Laurea University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
Playing in general and playing games is a natural method of interaction among children. Children take part in playing games eagerly and learn to follow rules and guidelines towards a common goal. Games can also teach children interaction skills, patience, coping with disappointment and problem solving skills. Furthermore, they can be used for pedagogical purposes.

Nature Leap is a pedagogical game, which has been developed for the use of early childhood education professionals in daycare settings with children aged 3 to 7 years old. The purpose of Nature Leap is to improve children’s motoric development via carefully selected physical exercises children complete during the game.

Nature Leap was developed by the students of Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Hyvinkää, Finland, together with professionals of early childhood education to increase methods of physical exercise provided for children within the small premises of daycare centers. The need for this type of game was research via a quantitative study.

Nature Leap has been tested by early childhood education professionals in several daycare settings in Finland. According to the findings of the qualitative study, children who played Nature Leap, practiced all the basic physical exercise skills recommended by the early childhood education exercise guide. It was also noticed that children moved actively during the game session. All of the necessary phases of physical exercise were also present: warm up, more intensive physical exercise and stretching. The meaning of collaborative learning was seen to be an important aspect of the game. During the game, children depended on each other’s help in completing the given assignments and advancing in the game.

Some of the broader purposes of Nature Leap are to be part of the solution to tackle the overweight challenge children face in the contemporary world and the increased time spent on watching the TV and playing computer games by young children in the developed nations.

For children, playing the Nature Leap game, gives them a venue for guided physical activity, which intrigues their imagination and urge to acquire new skills. For early childhood education professionals, Nature Leap functions as a practical tool for the creation of exercise sessions in daycare centers, which are based on careful research and knowledge of early childhood development.