The world is their playground: The Importance of Outdoor Exploration


The benefits of outdoor exploration are far-reaching and in an ever-advancing technological era, there is a strong focus to encourage children’s relationship with nature by playing outdoors. The outdoors offers rich learning experiences as it allows children to learn in context with natural environments to inspire creativity. Discovering nature with a hands-on approach helps to improve understanding of environmental processes, fosters responsible attitudes towards environments and improves well being.

In 2014, the theme of National Children’s Day campaign was ‘go wild’. They shared research that estimated that just one in five children is connected with nature, and suggested that one hour of wild time every day could help increase levels of physical activity, alertness and ultimately improve wellbeing. On the 17th of June 2016, school children across the UK will be opening their doors for Empty Classroom Day, designed to celebrate and inspire learning and play outside the classroom.


How can we encourage richer outdoor learning experiences?

Active Game Play

  • Provide wheeled toys such as trikes and buggies to play with outdoors
  • Provide space and time for dance and movement
  • Place clues around the garden for a scavenger hunt
  • Set up sports day games such as running races or long jump

Outdoor Imaginative Play

  • Encourage outdoor imaginative play narratives to do with building and mending such as a pretend builders yard
  • Build outdoor dens or provide a Wendy house for outdoor imaginative play settings
  • Pitch up a small tent and pretend to go camping or have a teddy bear picnic

Exploration and Discovery

  • Provide chimes, streamers, windmills and bubbles to investigate the effects wind can have on these
  • Talk with children about their responses to sights, sounds and smells in the environment and what they like about playing outdoors
  • Provide opportunities to look after outdoor environments such as watering flower beds or planting seeds
  • Encourage up-close investigations of outdoor features such as flowers, path ways and sandpits
  • Observe wildlife, mapping out what you see where in a journal

Sand and water play

  • Create a sensory pond in a water table using insect and aquatic counters and sensory materials such as sponges, sticks and stones
  • Use alphabet and number sand moulds to improve letter and number recognition
  • Pour and mix liquids of different colours and consistencies at the water table using jugs and stirrers

If you need some outdoor play inspiration for the summer months, read our Summer Bucket List of activities ranging from building hedgehog houses to puppet shows.



We recommend: Jumbo Bug Jars,

New Sprouts® Camp Out!,

GeoSafari® Jr Subscope™,

Primary Science™ Viewscope,

Smart Toss™ Early Skills Activity Set,

Grill and Go Camp Stove,

GeoSafari® Jr Great Excavations Turtle