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. Outdoor learning improves children’s health, offers them rich learning experiences and leads to a greater connection with nature. Playing outdoors teaches teamwork, creativity, resilience, helps improve understanding of environmental processes and fosters responsible attitudes towards environments.
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 1st of November 2018 and 23rd May 2019, schools around the world will be opening their doors for Outdoor Classroom Day. This day is designed to allow children to have lessons outdoors and to prioritise playtime which is central to children’s enjoyment of childhood.
How can we encourage richer outdoor learning experiences?
- Provide spotting sheets to look out for bugs and butterflies
- Provide space and time for running around
- Place clues around the garden for a scavenger hunt
- Set up sports day games such as running races, an egg and spoon race or long jump
- Encourage outdoor imaginative play with a dinosaur hunt, dress up in ‘safari’ gear, grab a magnifying glass or binoculars and hunt for dinosaurs. You could even place some toy dinosaurs around the garden
- Build outdoor dens with boxes and sheets for outdoor imaginative play settings
- Pitch up a small tent and pretend to go camping or lay out a blanket and have a teddy bear picnic
- Provide chimes, streamers, windmills and bubbles to investigate the effects wind can have on these
- Go on a blindfolded walk, tell your children to close their eyes and say what they can hear, smell and touch
- Provide opportunities to look after outdoor environments such as watering flower beds or planting seeds
- Encourage up-close investigations of outdoor features such as path ways, sandpits and flowers – can they name them?
- 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, stones and sand
- 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