Outdoor play is essential for children’s health and well being. The sense of peace and pleasure children experience when they take in fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun on their backs, and watch a butterfly land gently on a flower is immeasurable. What is very evident is how much children enjoy running, jumping, climbing, and playing outdoors. The time children spend outdoors every day is just as important to their learning as the time they spend in the classroom. For teachers, the outdoors offers many ways to enrich the curriculum and support children’s development and learning.
Literacy: Teach children jump rope rhymes and clapping games to promote phonological awareness. Have them tune into the sounds and sights around them: how the horn on a car sounds vs. the horn on a truck or bus; identifying animal sounds-crickets, birds, mosquitoes, frogs, and dogs.
Math: Encourage children to explore patterns and relationships by noting the patterns on caterpillars, flowers, and leaves. Suggest making a design with the leaves or shells a child has collected. Play follow the leader and have children replicate a movement pattern such as jump, jump, clap, jump, jump, clap.
Science: Promote understanding of the earth and environment by learning about trees and plants in your outdoor area and planting a garden with children. Explore shadows: what makes them, how they move, how long they are. Encourage children to collect all sorts of rocks and compare them; examine dirt from different locations; measure puddles after a rain and see what happens to them; collect litter and recycle. Study the seasons and the changes that occur in each one.
Social Studies: Explore concepts related to people and how they live when you take walks. Identify what stores are in your neighborhood and what different kinds of houses, or visit a construction site.
The Arts: Promote growth in dance and music by encouraging children to use their bodies freely outdoors; bringing music outside so children can dance and move to the different beats; encourage children to move like different animals.