Learning to play: How Finnish schools help kids love the outdoors

Outdoor play is an essential part of Finnish school life. Here, kids are encouraged to tackle the wilderness, using a unique and effective learning method that's helped Finland's education system to become the best in the world.

Nature sharpens the mind

Finnish kids even start learning to enjoy the great outdoors at kindergarten. In these early years, they’re taught through play to express themselves freely, which builds their confidence and enhances their social skills. Children treat nature as both a playground and a classroom where they pick up the essential cognitive skills that they will use throughout their lives.

Multitasking, problem-solving and teamwork are all learned when kids work on practical activities such as climbing trees, building dens and exploring new environments. And the benefits on the brain don't end there; creative thinking is more likely to occur when kids have time away from computer games.

Four seasons of fun

Finland’s well-known for its harsh winter climate. But even in sub-zero temperatures, the same educational philosophy applies. Indeed, having fun in this winter wonderland is excellent for kids’ overall health. By breathing in the fresh winter air and staying away from germ-spreading central heating, they avoid colds and flu. Then there's the positive impact on physical strength and coordination, which is enhanced while trekking through thick snow and ice.

When the snow does eventually melt away, kids are encouraged to make the most of the sunshine and a new season of outdoor play which brings good moods and healthy development. What’s more, because sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, kids gain essential nutrients to boost their immune system and strengthen their bones.

Teaching the world to play

Ever since Finland started topping The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) nearly 20 years ago, other countries have been interested in the Finnish education system. While there are many factors that make it a world beater, it’s clear that giving kids freedom and encouragement to explore the great outdoors is one of them. It’s a philosophy in which we also passionately believe at Reima. In fact, we’ve been helping kids to experience the delights of nature for 75 years. Now, we hope to inspire parents around the world to do the same.