Outdoor learning is a vital aspect of children’s lives. With the ongoing circumstances of the last year, a lot of children’s outdoor play and learning has been limited. In this blog, Early Years Editor, Angelica Celinska discusses the importance of outdoor learning and how we can make the most of it.
What are the benefits?
We all know that outdoor learning has many benefits:
- Fresh air
- Freedom of movement
- A sense of calm
- A higher level of sensory input
In my own practice, as well as through visits and discussions with practitioners, I have seen children truly ‘come to life’ when outdoors. The freedom and sense of calm which the outdoors brings can often allow children to either step out of their comfort zone or engage deeply with their senses. We may often see those children who are more reserved showing a lot more confidence outdoors. I also often see children who avoid sensory activities indoors begin to slowly explore with their senses more through outdoor learning.
Taking learning outdoors or ‘outdoor learning’?
A very common practice is to ‘take learning outdoors’. This might mean, for instance, taking maths activities or resources outdoors which are normally part of indoor provision. This can support children who are new to the setting or might not be keen on engaging in a certain area of provision indoors. The calm, open space, fresh air, and often just the change of scenery can put children at ease and encourage engagement in a certain area of provision they do not usually engage with.
However, we as practitioners must be careful with this notion. Just because we are taking an indoor resource outside does not mean it is supporting and making the most of true outdoor learning.
Tips for making the most of outdoor learning
Consider unique opportunities the outdoors can offer:
- Exploration of nature and wildlife
- Space for large movements
- Den building
- Large scale construction
- Messy play
- Group outdoor games
- Large scale, natural transient art
- Collection of natural materials
Encourage outdoor learning by:
- Creating investigation stations to spark creativity of the natural world
- Providing an array of open-ended resources to ignite imaginations
- Allowing children to self-access resources of their choice
- Choosing outdoor suitable resources for durability and safety