Learning Outside the Classroom – Early Years Ideas

Learning Outside the Classroom – Early Years Ideas

The outdoors offers so many opportunities for children to develop and learn new skills, take risks and try new activities.

Ofsted encourage a “free-flow” play environment at Early Years settings, and a lot of our customers at nurseries and pre-schools contact us because they would like a shelter solution which will allow the children to go outside whatever the weather. With this in mind we’ve come up with some ideas of outdoor learning activities young children can do on their own, or supervised whilst they are in the outdoors environment, most of these can also be done under your canopy if it is very rainy.


Mark Making – Sand or soil areas can be used by the children to experiment with mark making and even writing, this can simply be a sand pit or a section of soil which isn’t being used for growing anything at the time. In the winter a snow covered path or playground is a great opportunity to the children to develop their mark making skills, whilst also having fun in the snow!
Another great way to use a tarmac or paved area is to chalk letters and words onto the floor and have the children try to squirt over the letters with a water pistol

Stories Outdoors – Stories or poems which feature wildlife or animals, the weather or plants and trees can come to life in the outdoor environment. Stories and songs can even be made up from a found outside object or perhaps some wildlife they discover such as a bird or an insect.


Sorting – Children can practice putting natural objects into groups, such as colours, shapes, textures, sizes and weights. These can then be counted or used for simple sums.

Outdoor Number games – Fun games involving numbers can be played outside – such as hopscotch, “there were ten in the bed” or “What’s the time Mr Wolf?”. These also encourage movement, helping to keep the children active.

Rhyming in the Outdoors – The Outdoors gives lots of extra room to allow you to use lots of space and even act out nursery rhymes. Some good counting ones include: “One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive”, “Ten green Bottles” and “Five little ducks went swimming one day”.

Understanding the World

Exploring the Senses – A sensory garden is a great way to get children touching plants and natural objects and learning about their textures. Being outside also introduces children to the sounds birds, bees, the wind through trees makes, and also the sounds of aeroplanes and cars if you are in a built up area.

Building Materials – The outdoors gives plenty of room for children to build up towers and other structures and knock them down. You could encourage them to build small dens for wild animals or fun imaginary friends like fairies or gnomes., or larger dens for themselves (should be supervised).

Understanding the Weather – Being outdoors gives children the opportunity to learn about what to wear in different weather conditions and experience all the different types of weather.

Expressive Arts

Big Art – Children can use natural or manmade objects, to create floor art – such as using leaves to create a flower, or sticks to draw a house.

Movers and Shakers – Create music from natural objects: fill plastic bottles and jars with natural object such as cones, seeds, conkers, leaves, and pebbles, to make interesting shakers.

Bark Rubbing – If you have some trees in your outdoor area provide paper and crayons for the children to do bark rubbings, these are great to do and create wonderful patterns .

For more information about things to do under you canopy download our free guide:

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Able Canopies Ltd. design, manufacture and install canopies and shade structures
at schools, nurseries and educational settings to enable year-round
Free Flow Outdoor Play and Outdoor Learning.
For more information please contact us

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