This quote by Cathy James of NurtureStore beautifully sums up how to take the learning outside…
Anything we can do to make learning more enjoyable for the children is good so let’s take a closer look at 5 wonderful ways we can take the learning outside.
#1 Let Them Play
Nature is a natural teacher so the very first thing on this list is to just let the children run and play. Through natural interactions with nature and each other, the children are developing skills in cooperation, collaboration, problem-solving, self-regulation, communication, science, math, language, large and fine motor, and they are building their sense of community.
#2 Adventures in Literacy
There are countless, quality children’s books that can lead your children off on outdoor adventures. Whether you are reading a book about caterpillars, butterflies, clouds, leaves, sticks, bears, or lions, you can extend the story by taking it outdoors. For example, one of my favorite books to read is “We’re Going on a Lion Hunt” by Margery Culyer. After reading the story, I take the book and the children outside and we read it again only this time, we retell the story by going through each page and acting out the story.
#3 Loose Parts Play
Add a variety of loose parts to your outdoor environment that invite the children to do some creative thinking. A few logs, wooden stumps, old tires, wooden spoons, tin pots and pans, and wooden boards or planks, for example, all invite the children to imagine, build, and invest time in creative play and exploration.
#4 Outdoor Sensory Play
Set up a sensory play station outside and the children will love it! Often times, the sand or water table is a popular center indoors, but it can feel restrictive. We often find ourselves saying, “Keep the sand/water inside the table” or “There is only room for four children to play at a time.” When you take sensory play outdoors, we are much more relaxed about the play and the children feel more freedom to play. No need to just focus on water and sand though. You can take all kinds of sensory play outside from sand and water to dirt, pebbles, seashells, beans, seeds, bubbles, playdough, or anything else you can think of. Sensory play includes such things as planting seeds in dirt or growing a flower garden. While we may be focused on the “growing a garden” the children are loving and gaining from the sensory experience of digging and planting.
#5 Outdoor Writing and Drawing
Keep a set of crayons, chalk, paper, and clip boards outside for the children to document their learning and draw the things they see. You may end up with lots of mark-making to begin with which is great pre-writing practice. However, as you model how to take a minute to observe nature and then draw what is observed; or how to count out a set of rocks in a rock collection and make tally marks to document the number; or draw a map of lines leading to a secret treasure, or trace a simple leaf; or print out words of things you see, the children will be inspired to write and draw too. Drawing with chalk on trees, stumps, rocks, is a wonderful way to strengthen fine motor skills. Drawing chalk designs, names, shapes, numbers, lines, letters and words on a sidewalk is a wonderful way to model drawing, promote conversation, and it invites the children to think creatively as they use the chalk too.
Wait! There’s More!
In my next post, I will share five more wonderful ways to take play and learning outdoors so do stay tuned. And don’t forget to mark April 25th on your calendar so you can join the next Discover Conference! Enrollment will be opening up soon and you do not want to miss it!