Outdoor Play: A Guide for Educators  – Potential Experiences that Foster Growth and Learning

As educators, we understand the tremendous impact that outdoor play has on a child’s development. The great outdoors serves as a dynamic learning space where children can explore, learn, and grow in countless ways. In this blog post, we’ll explore various experiences that educators can incorporate into outdoor play to maximize the educational benefits for children.

  1. Nature Scavenger Hunts: Turn a simple walk into an educational adventure with nature scavenger hunts. Create with children lists of items to find, incorporating elements like different types of leaves, rocks, or specific plants. This enhances observation skills, encourages curiosity, and introduces children to the biodiversity of their surroundings.
  2. Outdoor Art Studio: Transform outdoor spaces into open-air art studios. Provide children with various materials that may trigger children’s sense of innovation, wonderment and creativity. Children’s artistic expressions not only contribute to children’s creativity but also encourage fine motor skills development. Discuss the natural colours and shapes around them to tie their observations and explorations back to the outdoor environment.
  3. Garden Planting and Care: Create a mini-garden with children so that they can participate in planting and caring for flowers, herbs, or vegetables. This hands-on experience fosters a sense of responsibility, teaches patience as they watch their plants grow, and provides valuable lessons about the plant life cycle. Children gain an understanding of how and where food is grown.
  4. Outdoor Storytelling Gathering: Establish a storytelling gathering space in an outdoor setting, surrounded by the beauty of nature. Encourage children to share their stories, read books with natural themes or act out various parts of a story. Engaging in storytelling outdoors not only enhances language skills but also contributes to children connecting narrative elements with the outdoor environment.
  5. Sensory Exploration Stations: Set up sensory exploration stations with materials like sand, water, mud, or leaves. These tactile experiences stimulate the senses, promote cognitive development, and provide opportunities for open-ended play. Encourage children to describe the sensations and discuss their findings.
  6. Bird Watching and Identification: Introduce children to the world of bird watching by providing binoculars and bird identification guides. Discuss with children the different bird species and observe their behaviours. These experiences enhance observation skills and instill an appreciation for wildlife and environmental diversity.
  7. Science Experiments in Nature: Bring science exploration opportunities outdoors with simple experiments. For example, study the effects of sunlight on plant growth, explore the concept of buoyancy with floating objects in water, or investigate the properties of soil. This hands-on approach to science fosters a love for inquiry and discovery.
  8. Obstacle Courses and Physical Challenges: Create outdoor obstacle courses that encourage physical activity, coordination, and problem-solving. Incorporate natural elements like logs, rocks, and uneven terrain to enhance the challenge. Physical play not only promotes gross motor skills but also contributes to overall health and well-being.

Outdoor play is a powerful tool for enriching children’s lives, and the opportunities mentioned above offer a roadmap for educators to maximize the educational benefits of outdoor experiences. Integrating these types of opportunities with children can create a holistic learning environment that nurtures creativity, curiosity, and a lifelong love for nature. Let the great outdoors be the canvas where children’s growth and learning flourish.


Read our article on Why Children Thrive Outdoors