Outdoor Play: Let Nature Be the Teacher!

Outdoor Play is an important aspect of a child's learning. While playing outside, children explore with all their senses and they witness new life. They create imaginary worlds and they negotiate with each other to create a playful environment. Children need first-hand experience to learn about the weather, natural materials and nature. Activities that are done inside can be done outside but will give children a whole new learning experience. Resources should be engaging, challenging and interesting for children to foster creativity and thinking.

Even in urban areas, children can find many natural objects during neighbourhood walks. Take advantage of the natural settings near your preschool, such as parks or public gardens. Take walks to find and document the first signs of a new season; to search for insects, rocks, and leaves; or to look for birds. Let the children bring their found natural items inside, when possible.

Outdoor Play: Using natural materials

Include herbs, fruit peels, leaves, sticks and branches, pine cones, tree seed pods, acorns, rocks, and shells. Ask  a florist for cuttings and trimmings from flower or the flowers that are past their prime. Children can take them apart - touching and smelling the petals and stems as well as measuring, sorting and graphing the parts.

A construction site may be willing to donate a tree stump or large stones to incorporate in classroom construction and dramatic play activities. Consider adding live treasures to the science area too! Simple habitats for small garden creatures such as butterflies, snails, worms, beetles, and crickets allow children gain firsthand knowledge and develop appreciation of these animals.

At the Early Years Shop we have a range of products to support Early Years Services with outdoor play. The Outdoor Play Toolkit includes all the paperwork you require to be compliant with Tusla focused inspections. It includes an Outdoor Play Policy, Physical Play Policy, Outside Risk Assessment and a Daily Garden Risk assessment Checklist to support early years services compliance with the Preschool (Childcare Services) Regulations (2006). In addition, it includes a number of outdoor signs and activity ideas!

The Insect Lore range includes products where children can experience raising their own butterflies from caterpillars. Caterpillars are available to order March-September. There are also items such as Bug Jars, Creature Peepers, Ladybird Magnifiers and Butterfly Feeders for learning about the bugs and insects that live in the environment around us.

If you are looking for some inspiration on activities that you would like to do in the Outdoors then check out our Thrive range of books from Irish Author Gillian Powell, M.Ed. These books are packed with lots of ideas and illustrated activities for children between the age of 2-8 years. Each book concentrates on seasons with Thrive Summer and Thrive Autumn already available! Keep an eye on our site for Thrive Winter coming shortly to the Early Years Shop!

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