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Are you looking to spend more time outside in your childcare program? Whether you you just want to update your outdoor space, or intentionally want to create your own outdoor classroom-there is nothing quite like spending your learning time outside! The warm sun on your face, a gentle breeze, and nature buzzing all around you.
Just as you set up learning spaces inside, you can set them up outside as well! Keep reading to find some fun ways to design your own responsive outdoor spaces for art, dramatic play, engineering, science, reading, music, and of course-physical development with a little elbow grease, and creativity.
Create a Space for Art Outside
Depending on your budget you can invest in an acrylic outdoor easel, or DIY your own that will withstand the weather.
As an alternative, you can bring your indoor easel outside with you, or attach clips to your fence to hold paper, and supplies.
Outdoor art area created by Felecia J. of Mrs. Felecia's Playhouse Preschool
If you are short on space, create an outdoor tote or cart that contains a variety of paintbrushes, paint, T-shirt smocks, and side walk chalk.
A fun alternative to an easel, is an outdoor chalkboard! Create your own using chalkboard paint!
Outdoor chalkboard created by Naomi G. of Play Matters Preschool
Bring the Art outside! Even if you don't have a dedicated outdoor art space, you can bring your art projects outside. You can create art outside during all seasons. Some ideas include: painting snow, making collages from fall leaves, and sun prints in the summer.
Sheena W. of Building Blocks Family Childcare shared the above process art project. She filled pantyhose with sand, the children dipped the end into paint and dropped it onto the paper.
Alegria P. has added some storage,
and a place for creating art to her covered outdoor area.
What a beautiful space to create art in!
Outdoor Physical Development
Being outside fills children's lungs with fresh air, and allows them to use their large muscles for running and climbing.
Make sure your outdoor space should be equipped to allow the children to explore the area independently.
This balance beam belongs to Naomi G. of Play Matters Preschool
There are a variety of outdoor structures available to meet the gross motor needs of the children in your care. A quality play structure is a great investment in your business. They often include a slide, swings, climbing walls, and built in play houses. Keep in mind most states have requirements for safety surfacing when adding structures over a certain height.
If you don't have a lot of space for a structure: consider a tunnel, balance beam, trikes, cozy coupes, wagons, other ride on toys,tires, low stumps for climbing, or a natural slide built into your existing landscape.
Other items to have on hand for outdoor play include:
Jocelyn T. of Helping Hands Daycare worked with her existing landscape to insert a slide into a gentle hill.
Music brings such joy! Create a music wall in your backyard, by securing a variety of recycled items to a wall or fence. If you don't have space to dedicate to a music wall, consider a portable option such as a tote filled with plastic instruments, a small battery operated radio, or pans and wooden spoons for an impromptu marching band.
This fabulous music wall was created by
community member Annie B.
Find more ideas for an outdoor Music Wall on this blog post.
Create a Space for Gathering
Create a space outside for your children to gather. Group activities are fun outside! Your gathering area can be as simple as a picnic blanket on the lawn-to something as elaborate as an outdoor covered area.
This fun outside space belongs to Naomi G. of Play Matters Preschool
An outdoor picnic table provides a place to serve outdoor snacks, and meals. It also provides a quiet space for children to draw or do a table top activity while outside.
Small World Play, Engineering, and Construction
Children love to dig!
In addition to Sandboxes, you can also create dig pits filled with wood chips, or gravel for digging and filling.
This wonderful sandbox area belongs to Sheena W. of
Building Blocks Family Childcare
Provide an assortment of loose building materials for hauling, building, and sorting such as:
Provide boxes, crates, scoops, strainers, wagons, and buckets for hauling and digging. Give children free range to engineer their own toys, and explore these items.
This dig pit belongs to Amanda W. of Tykes n Tots Daycare
Lori C. has plenty loose parts on hand for open ended play.
Several opportunities for construction, and small world play outside atPlay Matters Preschool
Provide small pretend people. animals, and accessories for creating a small worlds in your outdoor space.
An Outdoor Space for Pretend Play
This outdoor space belongs to Jessica D. of The Treehouse
Let their imaginations run free with open ended spaces for dramatic play. A playhouse can be furnished with an outdoor friendly kitchen, dolls, and play food. An open ended playhouse can become a Grocery Store, Movie Theater, Restaurant, or Post Office (Just provide a prop box).
This well stocked outdoor kitchen belongs
to member Alegria P. adding an outdoor rug, and bistro set makes it a cozy place to play.
This lovely mud kitchen belongs to Julie K. check out this post to see moregreat Mud Kitchens from our community!
A mud kitchen provides hours of outdoor fun. A plastic kitchen set, plastic crate or small outdoor table can become an instant mud kitchen. For a small space, consider a clear plastic bin that can be transformed into a "pretend oven"-store your cooking items inside for an easy pick up.
You can find many items for your outdoor dramatic play area from thrift stores, yard sales, or handed down from your clients.
Provide a box of items for outdoor dramatic play such as:
You can inspire children to perform by creating a back yard theater. A simple shower curtain on a rod or clothesline will do the trick! Provider a box of costumes, and props, or a box of instruments for an impromptu backyard concert.
Explore Science and Math Outside
Create a children's garden in your space. Plant vegetables that the children can observe, care for and eventually eat as part of their snack. If you are limited on space consider container gardening, or agrow bag for a temporary garden. Provide the children with tools, seeds, and watering cans to care for their plants. You can create a simple DIY watering can from a milk jug with a few holes punched into the bottom.
This fun ball drop at theApple Blossom Preschool
is actually teaching children the science of physics.
Jodi N. of the Apple Blossom Preschool also had this fun
pail scale built for her space by a local craftsman.
Exploring water at Play Matters Preschool
Bring your sensory table outside, or invest in a small water table for children to explore water. and other sensory experiences in the great outdoors!
Explore Language & Literacy Outside
This adorable outside sitting area belongs to member Alegria P.
Create a comfy and cozy place for children to read books outside!
This adorable outdoor reading area belongs to group member Amanda M.
If you are short on space consider adding a
basket of of books to a shaded area.
Jess T. of Little Bears Family Childcare added this double sided chalkboard to her outdoor space.
An outdoor easel or chalkboard makes a great
space for writing practice.
Amanda M shared a photo of her outdoor space. Some chalk and brick wall easily become a place for practicing letters.
Having an outdoor table and chairs provides a space for writing, and drawing.
Community member Lori C. added a basket of outdoor chalk to her space, perfect for impromptu writing or drawing outside! She also provides paintbrushes and water for writing.
If you are short on space you can add items to a tote such as writing instruments, clipboards, notepads, and chalkboard slates.
With a little bit of planning and creativity you can spend the majority of your day outside learning!
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