Outdoor Play & Learning Environment

Posted by Scholar's Choice in General

As the snow melts away and the hope of spring is in the air, our thoughts turn to the outdoors and outdoor play.

Children in our centers will be ready and eager to experience spring and there will be a new focus on your centres outdoor play space. Many centers are reviewing and evaluating their outdoor play space and some of them are talking about changing the environment to reflect a more natural space.

Elements of the natural play environment

  • Creating new sensory experiences that are not available indoors
  • Creating freedom to explore gross motor activities
  • Children can experience messy activities not encouraged indoors

Children experience the outdoors differently than adults, adults perceive the outdoors as a backdrop and children experience nature as a stimulator and that the outdoors is a part of their play. Children do not look at nature aesthetically but rather how they interact with it.

Ideas for Outdoor learning:

  • Planting in soil
  • Motion of plants in the wind
  • Imaginative plant in dirt and sand
  • Endless sensory experience of water

The goal of designing an outdoor children’s environment is to incorporate landscape and vegetation as the play setting and nature as much as possible as the play material. The goal is to develop a play garden that offers openness, diversity and the opportunity for manipulation, exploration, experimentation and fun.

Physical attractiveness is not what is important for an outdoor play space, what are essential:

  • Loose parts
    • Offer infinite play possibilities
  • Sand and water
    • The lack of a script allows the child to maker of the experience whatever their imaginations desire
  • Naturally found objects
    • Through play with nature children learn the rules and principles that govern the world
    • Places and features to sit in, on, under, or lean against,
  • Tools
    • Allowing children to make their footprint on the environment
  • Structures, equipment and materials that can be changed, including plentiful loose parts.
    • Different levels and nooks and crannies, places that offer privacy and views

The more variables that you can offer in an outdoor play environment the more the child will increase their inventiveness and creativity and foster a sense of curiosity.

If you want to learn more about outdoor learning or outdoor play check out these articles:

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