Jane Vella and Kate Bass, authors of 50 Fantastic Ideas for Exploring Nature, provide some great ideas for getting outdoors with young ones!
We have long been committed to providing a stimulating, learning environment both inside and out, using natural and open-ended resources. We promote the benefits and importance of a quality outdoor provision both in our own settings and through the training and workshops we have delivered to other Early Years practitioners.
To engage our families in our philosophy we recently invited them to an outdoor Saturday workshop where we provided a carousel of natural based experiences. Let’s talk you through some of the activities that were on offer that day.
We know that playing with mud offers a great sensory experience. It provides opportunities for experimenting and discovery whilst inspiring creativity and developing gross and fine motor skills. We added pizza boxes, herbs, leaves, bark, orange peel and flower petals to our Mud Kitchen and the children and their families had great fun creating their own mud pizza recipes.
We use pipettes a lot as they encourage the pincer grip needed for writing. Providing an apothecary allowed the children to create their own potions- a multi-sensory experience with plenty of opportunity for language and creative development. Some interesting concoctions were produced including a very exclusive perfume- ‘Tears of Elsa’!
We had a Mandala Design Area in our sandpit and the families were offered a range of small, natural objects to use to help to develop their hand-eye coordination. Exploring art in this way enables children to develop an understanding of pattern, colour, size, shape and texture.
The children also had a challenge to build a sand castle with a moat and drawbridge which seemed to be a big hit with both the children and their families. By the time we had finished den building, the morning had flown by and a great time was had by all! We received some very positive feedback from the families, all of whom stated that they would try some of the activities at home with their children. Most importantly for us, we were able to model language- using new vocabulary and open ended questions to promote convesation and communication. We were able to explain the benefits and reasoning for each area as they were taking place.
Think about planning a Saturday morning workshop in your setting. It means that working mums, dads and the extended family can be part of the child’s learning journey and it can only build on the relationships between the families and school. We based the activities on ideas from our new book and we feel that our families now recognise the importance that we give to outdoor play and how using some natural resources offers a tremendous opportunity for learning.