Encouraging Outdoor Exploration

My students are itching to get outside, and I love it! I am a huge advocate for outdoor play, especially because there is so much than can be learned from digging in the mud and chasing each other around the playground.  I firmly believe that outdoor play time should be unstructured.  Children need to explore, they need to get messy, and make up their own games.  These activities build confidence, self-esteem, and creativity, but some times children need a little nudge.  Many children don’t get the opportunity to play outside often, so here are some materials that you can include in your outdoor play space that will encourage children to explore:

  • Magnifying glasses
  • Empty containers
  • Scales
  • Mirrors
  • Spoons
  • Shovels
  • Clear jars with lids 
  • Loose parts/pieces
  • Blocks
  • Pots and pans
I’m sure we could think of more items that would be great for the kids who love to get dirty – capturing bugs, and making mud pies, but I was always the kid who preferred to spend my outside time in ways that were slightly more… clean.  There are definitely ways to encourage that kind of exploration too. Here are some ideas:
  • Crayons
  • Books or a place to read
  •  String and ribbon
  • Chalk
  • Gems and shells
The most important thing to remember is that each child is different, if a child doesn’t want to get messy or muddy, it’s fine, but the opportunity should be there just in case they change their minds.  

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