Get outside to freshen up your early learning activity plan!
Fall brings cool breezes and intense colors, which makes it a great time to be outside. Learning outside is a great way to fully engage children’s senses and spark learning. As the leaves turn from green to gold and animals prepare for winter, children can observe a lot. But that’s not the end of autumnal, activated learning.
Outdoor activities lend themselves to a wide range of topics for the children you work with. And, when we involve children in the process, that learning can grow exponentially. Check out the get-outside-and-learn ideas below, share them with your students, and then get outdoors and have some fun!
Outdoor Learning across the Indiana Early Learning Foundations:
Paint outside! Move an easel outdoors or hang a sheet on a fence. Select fall colors and consider using natural tools as your brushes. Talk with children about their work:
- “What kind of strokes will branches, plants and flowers make?”
- “What happens when we combine yellow and red?”
- “How can we paint the wind?”
Math and science
Build with blocks or cardboard boxes outside to create shelters (or just silly structures). involve families by asking them to bring in any size cardboard box. You can expand by bringing out plastic animals or toys that can be easily cleaned once taken back inside. Ask children about their building work:
- “How tall can we stack these boxes?”
- “Does your building keep the animals safe from rain? Which part does that?”
- “What’s taller? Your garage or my barn?”
Bring your water and sensory tables outside. Bonus: when you’re done playing, cleaning up is much easier outside! Add some seasonal items to the mix – sticks, mini-pumpkins, gourds, leaves or anything else. Talk about what they’re exploring:
- “ What do the sticks feel like?”
- “Oh, are you sorting the leaves by color?”
- “Can the twig be a bridge across the sand?”
Take a fall walk or hike. Ask children to find different kinds of buildings, streets and signs. Then, have a conversation about what the signs mean:
- “What does that red and white sign tell us to do?”
- “How many houses have trees with changing colors today?”
- “Should we turn left or right here?”
Creative arts and English / language arts
Bring dramatic play outdoors! Outdoor kitchens, construction sites, mobile animal clinics and farmers markets all make great play settings. Want more ideas, check out this resource from The Empowered Educator Online. Invite children to reflect on the stories they create:
- “What are you cooking? Who will be eating it?”
- “Oh, did the kitty get sick? What can we do to help?”
- “Tell me what your team is building first today? What will you build next?”
Don’t forget to reflect on your impact!
As you reflect on each activity or revisit it this season, take a minute to celebrate how you’re helping children learn and grow. Children learn from outdoor play in many, many ways. Some things you might observe in the learning include:
- Building deeper child engagement
- Nurturing better coping and problem-solving skills
- Sparking creative social play
- Supporting more cooperative play
About the author: Lenore Friedly designs and implements projects that support families and early childhood professionals with the goal of creating strong, collaborative relationships that support all young children. Developing avenues for authentic partnerships between families and providers is her professional passion. Her previous work in the field, including teaching at a co-operative preschool, supporting parenting teens and working with Early Head Start families, has continuously reinforced the importance of uplifting parents in this important work.
Lenore says, “my hope is that more and more, we recognize that children are stronger when the adults in their world work as partners.” Recently, she worked on the newest edition of the Learn More Magazine: Zero to Five, which seeks to help families consider career and educational awareness from diapers through pre-K.