1. Paint with water
This is so much fun for children of any age. Get into the outdoor classroom and paint anywhere…on brick walls, the ground, sheds, trees…Great for gross motor skills – give large brushes and make big sweeping movements and shapes, or smaller brushes – how much detail can you include before it disappears? Ask children if there’s any way they could capture what they are doing or if they would want to.
Cut up scraps of material of different lengths, colours and types. Explain what weaving is to children who may not have experienced it. Tell them you are going to make their outdoor space colourful and original. There are frames you could buy, or you might allow children to use a suitable fence or use wire mesh or garden netting. A lovely way to encourage creativity and help children have a greater connection with their outdoor area.
3. Make a ‘nature wand’
Each child will need their own suitably sized stick (if possible, they might find their own). Tell the children they are going on a walk to gather natural objects to become part of their wands. As they are walking ask them to think about the sounds they hear, any feelings and thoughts, the landscapes, trees and animals that catch their attention. The things they collect will help them recall these experiences. Before starting, let them choose handfuls of coloured string to tie on objects they find. Remind everyone to avoid picking rare or poisonous plants, or dangerous items such as broken glass.
4. Go on a leaf hunt
Find as many different types of leaves as possible. You might want to set a maximum of, for example, 5 per child, depending on time and what you want to do with them. Tell them you want the best examples. You might find out which trees the leaves are from. The Woodland Trust have great downloadable resources to help identify them. Or, depending on the age of the children, you might sort them by shape or colour. Autumn is the best time to find the most beautiful colours.
5. Plant bulbs for Spring
6. Go blackberry picking
A great activity during the summer months, blackberry picking is an exciting and fun way to explore the Outdoor Classroom Day in May!
7. Create outdoor art with found materials
Children might choose to work independently or collaboratively. Give each child/group their own space and let their creativity run wild! They might create a huge picture or a sculpture. Allow time for the children to look at all the art their classmates have created and perhaps explain how and why they chose to do what they did. Don’t forget to take photographs of the finished pieces.
8. Explore textures and patterns by making rubbings of anything of interest outdoors
Investigate the best resources to use – try pencils, chalk, crayons etc. This is such a fun and almost magical experience.
9. Potion and perfume making
We know children will love to use an array of ingredients – glitter, petals, leaves, stones etc. Whilst doing so their imaginations are soaring as well as developing their fine motor skills. Great for mud kitchens, messy station, sand and water play etc. Add a sense of awe and wonder to your experimenting and exploring. These acrylic potions bottles are ideal!
There are so many good reasons to take children outside as often as possible. The benefits are undeniable; it promotes a sense of wellbeing for all, as well as the opportunity to engage children who may find the normal classroom environment quite difficult. It’s worth considering whether you might try to include an outdoor session (even if just for reading) every day.
With thanks to Beverley Smalley for writing this blog. Beverley is an education specialist, writer and former primary school teacher.