How to do outdoor learning activities for preschoolers
Kids belong outside. They need to run, jump, climb, crawl, scream, in short, do all those things they are forbidden to do inside for many good reasons. Flying around outside is an essential part of childhood. It drains excess energy, and still benefits the healthy development of children. How?
In outdoor play, children learn about themselves and test their limits. They train motor skills, balance and coordination. They practice physical fitness and endurance.
Physical and mental health
By moving outdoors, children are doing something for their health. Being outdoors benefits the immune system and reduces the risk of being overweight. Contact with nature also helps mental balance.
Nature stimulates curiosity and creativity. Outdoors, children have the opportunity to immerse all their senses in exploring the world around them and its patterns. Thanks to direct experience, they come up with everything on their own, enjoy discovering and remember new knowledge better.
Interest in nature
By observing nature and its changes, children learn to respect the planet and the environment.
Yet today, children are spending less and less time outdoors. Parents are afraid that something might happen to them, that they might get run over by a car, that they might catch a cold. They prefer not to let them out alone. And to accompany them to the park or the forest, they don’t have time and often not even the mood. It’s somehow more comfortable at home.
But you have one trump card up your sleeve, or rather behind your door – the school garden. This safe play space is also the best interactive classroom you can imagine. With a little imagination you can turn it into an experimental lab, an art workshop and an outdoor gym.
As the Finns say, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
Tip:Ask parents to equip children with appropriate clothing and footwear.
In case you don’t know what to do with the kids in the garden all the time, here’s some inspiration for outdoor learning activities for all weathers.
The SearchNext time you go out, try to look around carefully and find… what exactly? Anything that’s typical of the environment or the season. Make a picture list so the children know what to look for and can tick off the items they find. For preschoolers, feel free to prepare a more abstract assignment. Give them the task of finding things according to their characteristics, like something red, something rough or something shiny…
CatalogingWhile the children are collecting flowers, sticks, pebbles and other natural objects, place two hula hoops on the ground. Then have the children compare and sort the natural objects by color, shape, size, etc. For example, they can put everything big in one hoop and everything small in the other.
Barefoot trailWhile in the classroom you would have to intricately assemble the sensory trail, in the school garden all you have to do is take off your shoes and remove your socks. Let your children use their bare feet to feel the grass, sand, dirt, paving stones and other surfaces you find in the garden.
For tips on other wonderful sensory activities, see Why involve all your senses in children’s games.
GardeningStart at least a small bed where you can watch the vegetables grow together from seed to fruit. Get your hands in the dirt, water, tend. Teach children patience, humility towards nature and gratitude for the harvest.
Outdoor artThere is no need to sit at a desk in the classroom for an art activity. Take your crayons, chalks and paints outside, it will be great fun. And if it splashes a bit, the mess outside won’t matter so much.
- Natural colors
Try drawing on paper with just what you find outside. Dandelions give yellow color, grass and leaves give green color, clay gives brown color… Search what other natural dyes you can find.
- Brushes made from natural materials
Try painting with different natural materials instead of a paintbrush. Observe the mark made by leaves, pine needles, grass, feathers, etc.
- Shadow drawing
When it is sunny, take paper and lay it on the sidewalk. Place plastic animals or other toys on the edge of the paper so that they cast a shadow on the paper. Use a pencil or crayon to trace the shadows and make them as you like.
- Autumn frottage
Collect fallen leaves, lay them vein side up and cover with clean paper. Run a flat wax pencil over the paper to reveal the texture of the leaf.
- Painting on snow
When the snow falls, take your paints and brushes outside and use the snow as a painting canvas. Those who don’t want to use watercolors can easily make natural colors from spices or vegetable juices mixed in water.
9. 5. 2023 | Martina Zatloukalová