The weather is great, so why not pack your bag and go outdoors? Just about anything you do inside, you can do outside too. You just need to have the right equipment!

Why bring your indoor supplies outside? One good reason is that you will be expanding children's knowledge base. Whenever you challenge children to take skills they are familiar with in one setting and then APPLY them in another, you are encouraging higher-order thinking. Children feel more confident as they use their skills in a multitude of settings. In addition, children need to refine and improve their listening and attending skills outdoors. There are so many more distractions in the great outdoors, from birds and bugs to cars and planes. The challenge for children is to keep their attention on the activity while all of this is going on. Not an easy task!

Plan Ahead

Introduce the outdoor idea to children during group time. Invite them to brainstorm the kinds of things they think the class could do. Suggest that they consider the different types of activities they do indoors and how they would do these same things outside. Keep a list of their ideas.

What Do We Need?

Next, ask children to think about what kinds of supplies they would keep in a backpack for their outdoor adventure. Explain that there are some items you should always bring on an outdoor adventure, such as an old blanket, sheet, or table cloth (to define the space and give a comfy surface to sit on); a whistle, bell, or drum (for gathering children and calling signals); a great book (in case you need to calm and center the group); and a collection of outdoor songs on file cards (to create group harmony when things get carried away ... or just for fun!).

Here are some other backpack ideas your class can work with:

Transition Time Backpack Fill a small backpack with objects that match or go together in some way. Silently pass the backpack around the circle and ask children to take out an object. When someone draws a match to another person's object, they are partners who can go line up together!

Nature Study Backpack Pack your bag with some of the items listed below to inspire children to explore nature all around them. Start by inviting children to look around the area and describe what they see, smell, feel, and hear. Then pass out materials for free exploration. Blow the whistle when you want to bring children back to a gathering place and share their findings.

  • Unbreakable magnifiers
  • Paper towel tube "spy glasses"
  • Pads of paper and crayons

Art Backpack There is so much excitement that occurs when art materials are taken outdoors. Introduce a material (see list below) and a technique on the blanket and then give children time to explore the area.

  • Drawing paper and flat crayons for nature rubbings
  • Chalk for sidewalk and wall drawings
  • A collection of boxes with fasteners, rope, and glue for making a group sculpture
  • Paintbrushes and containers of water to paint everything in sight!

Treasure Hunt Backpack Put a puppet and a clue message in the backpack. Keep the contents of the backpack a mystery until you are all gathered outside, then introduce the puppet as the "host" of the hunt! The puppet will give children the first clue. Make the clues simple, such as: You can climb up high and slide back down. What am I? (The next clue is taped under the slide.) Have children continue the hunt until they find a wrapped-up package of raisin boxes, fruit treat, or trail mix-a delicious outdoor snack-time treasure!

Cooperative Games Backpack Particularly at this time of the year, children just need to be active. So, start your day outdoors with cooperative-games. Offer:

  • Beach balls of different sizes and blankets or sheets for bouncing and catching them
  • Hula hoops for jumping, spinning, and balancing
  • Balloons to try to keep up in the air or to balance between friends

Read-in-the-Shade Backpack It is hot today, too hot to run around. Collect up your favorite books from this year and have a marathon outdoor read-in. Find a shady place and, if possible, pillows. Provide juice boxes and make paper fans to really keep things cool! 

Tips for Outdoor Activity Times

Before you go out, take time to discuss and establish the special rules needed to make your outdoor activities a big success.

Choose a place to meet. Look for a place that has the least distractions and is comfortable for all children to sit.

Discuss the rules. What do we need to do to be careful outside? Talk about the importance of staying with the group, listening, and following directions.

Make the sessions short and sweet. Since children will want to do their usual free play when they are outside, they may not be able to focus as long as they do when indoors. That is okay-- just make the most of the time when you do have children's attention.  

Toddlers Too! 

A favorite toddler activity is "fill and dump"toddlers love to fill up bags, carry the bags somewhere, and then dump out the contents. Why not use this interest to create a backpack activity outside? Bring several bags or baskets outside, along with a collection of soft toys and balls. Create a group-style "relay race." Place the empty bags and objects at one end of the group and an empty box at the other. Invite children to see how much they can get in their bag, carry it over to the box, and dump it out. The next group of children can fill their bags from the box and take them back to the beginning. Friends will love to help each other in this game!