7 great ideas for outdoor learning

by Anna Michaelidou

All children can benefit greatly from spending time in the natural environment. Any learning that is done outdoors will support the development of healthy and active lifestyles whilst offering children the opportunity to express themselves freely and improve their physical state.

Outdoor learning offers children the chance to have hands-on contact with the natural world whilst also having direct contact with the different kinds of weather. Learning outside will nurture a child's creativity and develop their imaginations as well as enhancing their personal and social skills, enhancing their mental and physical health and increasing their overall awareness.

Here at First Tutors, we have come up with 7 great ideas for outdoor learning to inspire both you and your child and enjoy some quality time together:

1. Visit a zoo


As a parent one of my favourite things is our family days out to a zoo with my children. Watching the amazement in their eyes as they encounter different animals and point things out is truly inspiring. There are countless benefits of taking children to a zoo aside from the obvious family bonding time.

Children will enhance their language development by learning new words and concepts as well as become aware of the environment and environmental issues. They will also benefit from the physical exercise as zoos normally need a few good hours of walking about. Many zoos also offer hands-on experiences such as feeding a particular animal and there are also usually educational talks which will boost your child's curiosity and increase their knowledge.

2. Explore nature in the forest or garden


Exploring nature is a fun and educational way to spend some time with your child. Whether it be in your back garden, a local park or in a nearby forest children can spend the time searching for different kinds of plants and shrubs or examining the different kinds of bugs they find along the way.

Setting challenges such as how many different kinds of bugs they can find and talking about them, or how many butterflies they can catch in a net (making sure of course they are careful and always let the butterfly fly free). You can then get them to look up some interesting facts about the things they saw when they get home or make a dried flower book as a fun learning activity.

3. Chalk or sand art

chalk art

We all know the huge benefits children can reap from creating their own art. Aside from relieving stress it encourages creative thinking, boosts self-esteem and provides them with a sense of self-achievement.

Simply taking some chalk and encouraging your child to draw on different surfaces outdoors or taking different instruments to the beach and watching them design different pictures in the sand are great ways of encouraging you child to express themselves through art. Taking photographs of their finished masterpieces and keeping a scrapbook is a great idea and will also keep your child stimulated, building their confidence as their skills improve.

4. Magnifying the natural world

magnifying nature

Allowing children to see the world through a magnifying glass can change the way they see things. Magnifying glasses are available for all ages and there are plenty of things to look at in a garden, on a beach or in a park. Whether it be examining the lines or fine hairs on leaves, the intricate flower parts or the detail of a bugs body, your child will have plenty to talk about, increasing their imagination and vocabulary.

You could also have them try to catch different insects and place them in a container so that they can examine them more closely. There are many different kinds of bugs and insects in any garden and I'm sure your child will have plenty of fun both trying to find and catch them and then examine them.

5. Gardening


Children can learn a great deal from growing things. Gardening is a fun, healthy activity for children that will see them develop new skills whilst learning about nature and science. Gardening has a large variety of different tasks that children can take on, from planting seeds to watering and weeding.

Encourage your child to choose something they would like to plant and to make sure they keep track of it's progress and look after it. Keeping a diary of the progress their plant makes on a daily or weekly basis will see your child grow alongside their plant, developing their skills and enhancing their knowledge. They will learn to be responsible for the caring of their plants whilst learning to understand about cause and effect.

6. Den building


Building a den with your child is a fantastic way for encouraging their imagination and creating their own space. Den building is a challenging and fun way of building children's physical and mental skills. A child's den is great for sharing with their friends or siblings and enhances their imaginations as they act out stories or fairy tales. Building a den in your garden using as many natural resources such as twigs, branches and rocks also enhances your child's interaction and understanding of the natural world.

7. Weather walks


In the UK we are lucky enough to experience all of the different seasons at various times of the year. Whether it be rain, snow, sleet, sunshine, wind or just plain old cloudiness, the English weather is definitely unpredictable.

A great idea for outdoor learning with your child is to explore the different weather and seasons. On a rainy day, put your wellies on and a mac and go for a walk in the forest, on the beach or through the high-street. Then on a sunny, windy or cloudy day do the same and ask your child to note differences they find in the different places you have visited. Visit windmills or look for the different bugs that come out on the different days. Encourage your child to take photographs and keep a diary of all the things they notice when out on the walks.

Weather walking will encourage your child to collect evidence by making observations and improve their investigative skills. They will also learn to communicate their findings and build their confidence.

To conclude

Outdoor learning has a world of benefits including decreasing stress levels, increasing motivation and creativity, developing knowledge, long-term memory building, building social and communication skills and of course family bonding. With so many different activities for children to experience outdoors try to incorporate some learning at every available opportunity.