Kate Marriott

Outdoor Learning in Early Years

Outdoor learning has numerous benefits for children’s development; in more recent years we have seen more of a focus on outdoor learning in EYFS settings. There have been many proven benefits of outdoor learning: 

Improves problem solving skills and fosters a creative mindset

When playing outside children will come across more challenges than inside a classroom. For example, inside the classroom there may be a range of toys that the children can play with; however, outside there may just be the natural environment so the children will have to be creative with the games they play.

Builds confidence and leadership

Being outside encourages children to take calculated risks. When students take risks and push their personal limits, they will learn new skills; when this is done several times, their confidence will grow. Outdoor learning also allows children to learn a lot from one another: when one child has come up with a solution to a problem they can help other children with the same problem, leading to relationship building and a development in leadership skills.

Helps improve wellbeing

When children are outside, their mood can improve significantly. This, paired with the impact on confidence and physical health, can lead to an improvement in children’s wellbeing. When children are outside, their mood can improve significantly. This, paired with the impact on confidence and physical health, can lead to an improvement in children’s wellbeing. 

Benefits to physical health

When students are outside, the play is much more physical than inside: with more running, jumping and walking, the development of the child’s gross motor skills are helped, as well as having benefits for their physical health with different muscles being used and gaining fitness.
Outdoor learning can be done year-round, this allows children to experience the different seasons and understand the environment we live in. To prepare for year-round outdoor learning, it is important that you get parents on-side and have conversations about its benefits. For outdoor learning to be successful, children must be comfortable and therefore have the appropriate clothing for the different times of year.

In winter, it is important that children have warm, waterproof clothing and waterproof boots – by having this equipment it will allow them to take more risks and enjoy the outdoors more. You can also create shelter for the children such as using tarps or teepees- these are also great for reading outdoors with the children.
There are many different ways in which you can set up activities outdoors. For example, you could have different stations around your outdoor area and allow children to have choice in what they do. Different stations can include:

  • Using materials from the natural environment to create things with for example: mud pies, natural painting and music.
  • Having reading stations set up with picnic blankets and a choice of books.
  • Having space which gives children the opportunity to run around- you could even use natural materials, such as logs, to create an obstacle course.
  • You could have an area where children can dig and create things using molds which can also support the development of their fine motor skills.
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