With society’s ever-increasing focus on all things digital, encouraging the younger generations to embrace the natural environment around them is of utmost importance. This is particularly significant given the growing concerns surrounding the planet, global-warming and why it is our responsibility to look after the planet, and you can read more about that with our recent blog post, Improving Environmental Awareness in Children. Outdoor learning offers a plethora of benefits to children and helps to convey that learning can happen at any time or place while highlighting the more engaging, practical side of education. Our blog looks at the benefits of outdoor learning, followed by some suggestions for activities that are perfect to try out over the holidays.
Benefits of Outdoor Learning
There are numerous ways children can benefit from learning through activity outside. Below we’ve identified just some of the ways outdoor learning enriches their education and provides real-life skills that will stay with them for ever.
It’s no secret that spending time in nature is good for both physical and mental health. Encouraging a positive relationship between your child and the great outdoors from an early age makes them more likely to continue the habit when they are old enough to make their own decisions. Gross and fine motor skills are likely to be developed while spending time outdoors also and self-awareness, self-esteem and confidence will all be improved.
Outdoor learning also provides children with the opportunity to identify and develop an array of skills such as reflective thinking and problem-solving, both of which can be applied to ‘real’ situations in later life. They will be able to identify hazards, risks and better understand the consequences of their actions, be it climbing too high up a tree or returning home with muddy clothes and less than impressed parents.
Finally, spending time outside is likely to encourage children to develop an appreciation for nature and all that is living. This means they are less likely to take part in antisocial behaviour such as littering and vandalism in the future and will be a little more thoughtful in how what they do can affect the world around us.
Outdoor Learning Activities
Even just heading out on a family walk can be considered as outdoor learning, as you explore new areas, discover a new route and see things that younger children might not have seen before. However, if you’re after inspiration for some more structured activities, then we have listed a few suggestions below.
Here at our private school in Devon, we are surrounded by beautiful countryside in every direction, meaning there’s plenty of opportunities to engage with all of the wildlife that comes with it. Make your own bird feeders and monitor the various species of birds that pay you a visit in wild bird bingo. Head on a bear-hunting expedition on one of your local walks, and while it’s unlikely that you’ll spot one, deer or hares make for a sound substitute. For children with an interest in insects, take them out to examine various habitats before tasking with creating their own kind of ‘Bug Hotel’ that can be used by as many insects as possible. If you live near public footpaths where frogspawn is laid in large puddles and swamps, head up there with nets, buckets and magnifying glasses so the children can take a closer look.
For those lucky enough to have a garden that permits them to do so, planting your own fruits and vegetables will mean children spend lots of time outside while tending to their patch. This is one of the best ways to teach children about the complex ecosystem of plants, perfect for budding biologists who want to learn more about the topic. Whether you can dedicate an entire ‘garden’ for them to take responsibility for or you want to start slow with just a few potted plants, children will need to dedicate time to looking after their crops and will quite literally reap what they sow as you tuck into their freshly-grown produce for lunch.
Come rain or shine, there’s always something fun to do outside. Should wet-weather occur during a weekend or school holidays, choose to embrace it by putting on waterproofs and wellingtons for a bit of old-fashioned puddle-jumping. Children are often guided around puddles, so the novelty of being about to get as wet and muddy as they like is sure to go down well with all ages. Similarly, on windy days, head to the highest, safe point near you and encourage children to try and fly by jumping into the strong gusts. When the sun is shining there is no better place to be than outside, soaking up that all-important vitamin D and enjoying screen-free games with family and friends. We are lucky enough to be based near to the coast, so local families could opt for a day at the beach, swimming in the sea, rock-pooling and making sandcastles.
That concludes our guide to outdoor learning, we hope we have reminded you of how important it is and perhaps provided some inspiration for the half-term holiday next month and beyond. Do you have any other suggestions for the best outdoor-based activities? Let us and the parents of other pupils at St Peter’s Prep know via the comments on our social media channels.