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Making the Most of Outdoor Play

July 30, 2020

Discover the learning opportunities outdoor play offers all year round!

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There’s no wrong way to play outdoors and there are countless play and learning opportunities! When heading outdoors, give your child the freedom to take the lead – to discover sticks, leaves, rocks, and dirt and to turn these objects into their own play objects.

A stick is not just a stick but a wand, or a candle, or a balance beam! Rocks are great for building, counting, and art!

There are so many different textures to discover outside! From smooth ice to rough tree bark, children can explore endless sensory experiences.

There are lots of beautiful colours outdoors – discover the flowers, birds, and leaves and all the different colours they come in!

Keep reading for some of our favourite outdoor play ideas!

Outdoor Play Ideas! 

Click or tap on any of the images below for more information on that play idea.

What is my child learning outdoors?

Literacy Skills

The outdoors is filled with objects children don’t normally see inside. Exploring and talking about the rough texture of bark on a tree or the smooth, round stone you found helps to expand your child’s vocabulary.

Math Concepts

Counting sticks, leaves and stones is a great way to incorporate numeracy into your child’s learning outdoors.

Science Concepts

Being outdoors and exposed to very different objects than when they are inside prompts children to find answers to all sorts of questions through exploration. Throwing a leaf in the air and watching it fall slowly to the ground or balancing sticks to make a structure are two of many ways children are learning science concepts through outdoor play.

How is outdoor play beneficial to my child’s development?

Playing outdoors is not only filled with learning opportunities but is important to a child’s overall development and well-being.  

Gross Motor Development

Refers to the development of large muscles, the muscles responsible for helping us to walk, run, crawl, jump, throw, climb and even write. There are no limits when children play outside and they can run as fast as they want and jump as high as they can without worrying about a lack of space.

Cognitive Development

Children are exposed to different scents, textures, and spaces than when they play indoors – encouraging children to explore and ask questions. Children will touch and smell different objects outdoors to find answers to their questions.

Physical & Mental Health

Outdoor play has proven health benefits for children. Active play, especially, is great for both physical and mental health and has even been linked to better sleep patterns.

Tips for Playing in the Elements 

In both the cold and heat it’s still fun to get outside, but you’ll need to pay extra attention to how you play. Here are some tips on how to stay safe in the hot and cold weather. 

Wear weather-appropriate clothing

Winter clothing should include a winter jacket, snow pants, boots, a hat and gloves when playing outside in the cold.  Summer clothing should be made of lighter fabrics and a hat should be worn to help shield from the sun. Remember to wear sunscreen to protect your child and yourself from the sun in both winter and summer.

Take breaks

Play in 20-30 mins intervals (or an amount of time that works for you and your child) outdoors and then take a break indoors to warm up or cool off until you’re ready to go back out again. If you’re playing outdoors but you’re not close to home, try to find a space with access to shade for frequent breaks from the sun.

Stay hydrated

Continue drinking water when playing outdoors (even in the winter) as children tend to be much more active outdoors and overexert themselves quickly.

How Does Learning Happen During Outdoor Play?

Source: How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, Ministry of Education, 2014