By discovering nature, you discover yourself. Maxime Lagacé
Kids learn by doing. This involves getting rid of the four walls and ceiling and providing them with generous amounts of playtime. In fact, children benefit from being outdoors, even when they aren’t, technically, ‘playing’. Taking learning outside is a decidedly effective way to get their creative juices flowing and their little minds buzzing.
Outdoor learning opens up new possibilities for children that a traditional classroom or conventional learning would not be able to offer. Children get to run around and burn off all that excess energy. Falling, and learning to pick themselves up is one lesson that the outdoor teaches them. There are many outdoor activities that caregivers can use to initiate learning but they are best utilized as a way to facilitate play, rather than learning. There need not be any worries about having a strict teaching plan. Let it unfold naturally and allow the kids to be themselves.
Observing what is around them can be a great sensory experience for the children. Ask them to describe what they see, hear, smell, feel and taste, and let them ask questions. Show them new things, even new plants or animals. Their ever-expanding vocabulary will be enriched with a host of new words. Word-object association happens naturally when the kids can actually see physical objects instead of pictures. Give importance to both active playing and passive relaxation. Show them around the playground, but give them the freedom to explore. It is a good idea to introduce children to sandboxes. Getting messy is essential to early learning development. Show them shades of trees to sit down beneath, alone or in groups. Ask them to gather around you for an impromptu storytelling session. Ask the kids to share something new they’ve seen today. Taking books outside is not a bad idea either. A group book reading session, outside in the fresh air, is as good as it gets.
Turn nature into their private science lab. Pour some water on the hot pavement and let children watch as it evaporates. Answer their “oohs” and “aahs” with the help of some simple science. Talk to them about the seasons and how the climate changes. Take them around a garden and tell them how important plants are to us. One of the best things about being outdoors is the curiosity that even little things can arouse. Caregivers, parents, and teachers can even let students collect curious nature given trinkets or weirdly shaped rocks and take them back inside to learn more about them. Make use of all the space you have at your disposal and arrange a scavenger hunt. Searching and exploring through nature should ignite all their senses!
Art is apt for both an indoor and outdoor setting. But with children, art sessions can quickly degenerate into a mess that can be a headache to clean-up. So, taking art outdoors is an efficient and easy solution. Provide kids with the necessary materials – canvas or paper and colors. Find a good spot to sit around, or even a fence to hang the canvasses. While a coloring book and crayons can get the job done, clay modeling and watercolors make the art sessions all the more interesting. Additionally, motivate them to find natural surfaces to paint on, like leaves or flat-faced rocks. Get them to combine these rocks, leaves, twigs, and branches to craft something unique.
Under safe and supervised circumstances, children get to go outside their comfort zone and take responsible risks. Outdoor play not only assists learning but also enhances the mental and physical well-being of children. Many childcare centres are apprehensive about taking children outside. But we believe that nature is the perfect classroom, and anything that can be learned inside, can be learned outside as well!