Benefits of Outdoor Learning
Outdoor learning takes children out of their comfort zone and provides them with opportunities for development that they do not have indoors. Being outdoors provides children with opportunities to explore their feelings, develop friendships, learn and develop new skills and practice skills and share knowledge that they have learnt indoors. It also allows children and adults time to connect with nature and develop and build their mental health.
Outdoor learning is vitally important in the early years. Children are often encouraged to be school ready with a focus on reading and writing, but often we forget that children need time to explore, make connections, make sense of the world around them, develop their understanding of the world and their place in the world and develop and retain senses such as the vestibular sense. This is often overlooked and not focused upon, but is crucially important for children’s development, especially with the expectations of children being school ready. Developing the vestibular sense allows children to develop their balance, coordination, hand to eye skills, core control, arm and leg movements and eventually fine motor control ready for being in a classroom environment. This is an area of development that cannot be developed indoors. To develop these skills children need to be able to climb, swing, balance and take risks within their play. For example balance beams, rope swings, den making.
Outdoor learning allows children of all abilities to explore in a safe environment that we can set up for them to explore, use their imagination, develop a sense of belonging and practice new skills. Outdoor learning can take place in any environment as long as it is outdoors. This can be in parks, gardens, woodlands, and what you have available. For outdoor learning you do not need lots of resources.
Outdoor provision provides children with opportunities to develop holistically (all areas of development, including the senses). This means that children are able to use their senses to explore hands on experiences, to make connections about the world and nature. For example, setting out a range of autumnal treasures in the tuff tray such as pumpkins, leaves, acorns, conkers, water play with cinnamon, wooden houses and peg people (little wooden dolls).
Going on walks to collect resources such as leaves and sticks can all be part of this.
Going to the park and playing on the swings, going for walks along the river or canal, collecting sticks and leaves on the way home from nursery or setting up a potions lab in the garden at home can all be examples of outdoor learning. Each one allows children to connect with the world, develop their senses and gain new skills and experiences.
Outdoor learning is a key part of our day at little hands. We provide all children access to the garden, forest area and sensory garden. We work on a range of skills and provide children with a range of activities that introduce them to the world around them.
As part of our outdoor learning we have introduced forest school and each age range has an outdoor coordinator, to ensure that children have meaningful opportunities and experiences in the outdoors. Each term we also aim to have well-being weeks which allow practitioners to share experiences and ideas with each other and the children.
By providing children with opportunities to explore and learn outdoors we are also creating children that care about our environment and will one day be advocates of nature.