Outdoor Activities: It's Summer!
Time to move your program (and children) outdoors!
- Grades: PreK–K
Welcome to the summer outdoor activities issue! Something quite magical happens when you move your class outside. There is more space to move, air to breathe, light to see, nature to touch. Outdoors, children encounter the multi-sensory delights outside the room-and inside themselves!Read on to find your guide to creating a happy, healthy, and educational program right outside your classroom door.
Children greet outdoor activities with lots of exuberance. In this expansive learning environment, young children can work on all the skills they normally develop indoors. In fact, many children gain skills more quickly in outdoor summer programs because of the relaxed ease of expectations and activities.
A Creative Outdoor Environment
Take a look at your outdoor space with new eyes. What can be easily changed or added? What can he brought out from inside?
- Remember, gross-motor activities are just one part of outdoor play.
- Most of what you do inside can be moved outside. The sand and water table, blocks, dramatic-play props and puppets, art materials, and even instruments are all especially fun when they are outside.
- Try using open-ended props such as large boxes, tubes or crates, big brushes and mural paper, plastic flowers, and old sheets or strips of fabric to encourage creative thinking and problem solving.
- Create small shady places for quiet play and reflection. A tablecloth or blanket is great for cloud gazing or for setting up a cozy game of checkers. Don't forget to bring out some books!
- Set up a "self-service" water and snack area for your hard-working players!
Enjoy the fun inside this outdoors issue of Early Childhood Today!
How to Use the Issue
We've organized this issue into four separate categories that include Music and Movement, Science, Problem Solving, and Outdoor Games. Each category begins with an introduction section that includes:
Getting Started: A section that helps you introduce the activities.
Using the Activities: A section with ideas and suggestions for using and expanding the activities.
Conversations and Questions: A box of clever ideas to get children talking and thinking!
Skills & Objectives: A list of skills children will use when working with the activities.
Concepts to Explore: Ideas for concepts that can be explored in each category.
Follow these simple steps when working with the activities in each section.
Introduce the activity. Instead of telling children what the activity is, give them clues to engage problem-solving thinking.
Present the materials and talk about them. Ask children to predict how they can use the materials and supplies. Be open to their creative ideas.
Invite children to join small groups for in-depth explorations. Most of the activities are best suited for groups of five or six children. Because you are outside, there are plenty of other play activities for children to do while you work with a small group.
Use the questions and conversation starters for thought-provoking teacher-children interactions. Use the questions as a model for creating your own questions that are specific to you and the needs of your group.
Encourage children to suggest variations and extensions on the original activities. Often their ideas are the best!
The Teacher's Role
No matter whether your outdoor area is in a city playground or a rural park-as soon as children step out the door, nature is there to greet them. Perhaps your most important role is to enjoy the children AND the outdoors to the fullest! It is your delight in the sights, smells, sounds, and tactile experiences of the outdoors that truly "rubs off" on children. If you like to be outdoors, most likely they will too. And if they like being there, they will learn from all the wonderful activities you have to offer. Some children are "naturals" at nature and the outside. They feel relaxed and comfortable with the more casual presentation of outdoor activities. Others may need you to help them understand the beauty of nature and the boundaries and limits of their new expanded classroom. Here are some tips to consider when moving outside:
Celebrate nature. Show children the pleasures of a puddle, the surprise of a seedling in the sidewalk, and the calm of a cloud passing overhead.
Start with an outdoor group meeting. Working outside is different from inside. Children need to understand your expectations and rules. Gather children to discuss the rules and boundaries of outside activities. Invite them to suggest their own rules.
Be observant. Watch for children's interests and curiosities and use them to expand and create more outdoor experiences. Of course, be watchful for safety issues too.
Be flexible. Change a plan quickly if children are not engaged or interested or a better idea arises.
Expand your time frame. Outdoor activities take more time than the same activities do indoors. Allow plenty of "messing around" time for children to make the activities their own through explorations during many play sessions. ECT