30 Days Wild Blog Day 6: Outdoor learning environments
Outdoor environments have many positive effects on children’s development. They give opportunities to experience and enhance many different skills with a greater sense of freedom and independence than those experienced indoors.
Outdoor spaces and learning environments provide contact with the natural world allowing children to use all of their senses. Often, children who are more reserved in an indoor setting will ‘come out of their shell’ when given the opportunity to play and learn outdoors.
Outdoor learning environments allow children to experience problem-solving, risk-taking and big-scale play in a safe environment. They can use all of their senses and be creative in a different way using an outdoor space.
Physical activity is enhanced and so is calculated risk taking, which is important as children grow up.
To make full use of the outdoors and its ability to be a rich enabling environment you need to:
- Try to make sure that children have the opportunity to be outside as much as possible throughout the year, even in the cold winter months.
- Talk to children about personal safety and the safety of others to help them understand how to behave in an outdoor setting.
- Offer a multi-sensory environment by including areas for different types of outdoor play with different resources – think about sand play and wet play areas, wheeled toys, balls, areas for planting or with flowers and vegetables, areas with larger items such as boxes, crates or tyres, areas focused on animals and insects such as bird feeders or log piles. The resources don’t have to be expensive, just varied and creative.
- Don’t shy away from using the outdoor space in different types of weather – experiencing different weather is a fantastic learning and play opportunity for children. Ensure they have the correct clothing/footwear/hats to allow stamping in puddles, playing with snow or playing safely out in the sunshine.
- An outdoor environment gives you the space you need to plan activities that cannot take place indoors – larger scale activities held outdoors will encourage collaboration and cooperation between the children.
- Ensure the outdoor environment caters for all the children – think about those with mobility issues and how they will use the space.
- Try to link indoor and outdoor environments with a transition space where children can be independent (as much as possible), with low level pegs and storage for the clothing and items they may need.
- Think about having quiet areas where children can be away from the more noisy or energetic play that tends to take place outside – perhaps providing secret corners or dens.