Making the Move to More Outdoor Play and Learning

Topic Progress:

What you plan indoors can be planned outdoors.  There are classrooms filled with materials from nature such as pinecones, rocks and shells.  With the use of baskets and other nature-inspired toys and materials, there is a trend to bring outdoors indoors. This is not a substitute for outdoor play. Consider bringing the indoors out. Here are some suggestions:

  • Have snack outdoors
  • Have group time or meetings outdoors
  • Read stories outdoors
  • Sing songs and dance outdoors
  • Have parents drop children off outdoors in the morning
  • Have parents pick up their children outdoors at the end of the day
  • Adopt a tree and visit that tree in all seasons – record the children’s observations and invite them to represent the tree as it changes


Another suggestion is to bring children to a particular place and visit that place on a regular basis. Visit that place during all seasons and all weather so that children can observe the similarities and differences of place as seasons change. If that place has rocks, pinecones and other natural materials, why collect them to bring indoors? What would be the benefits of keeping those materials in the place that they belong? How does this support environmental sustainability?  Do you think we have a moral or ethical responsibility not to remove natural items from the environment? What if you brought additional materials to that space? Consider the possibilities. Watch the video below.  What has been added to the space? What would you do next?

Rather than look for what you see on the surface in the video, which is children, constructing and playing with a seesaw outside, consider big ideas for programming that can extend and expand the experience. How about providing more opportunities and provision for children to explore a balance outdoors? How many ways can they do that? What materials would you provide? How would you document that experience?