Outdoor play

leaf prints on paper

Outdoor autumn leaf art

Autumn is a time of year that naturally lends itself to exploring nature. Invigorating fresh air and vivid colours captivate our senses and entice us outdoors, even if it’s a bit chilly. Leaves fall and acorns, conkers and beechnuts drop, generously covering the ground with materials for children to collect. Giving children enough time outdoors to discover will ignite their interest in the world around them. Use this simple nature-art activity as a springboard to learning about leaves with your class. Children will be fascinated by different leaf shapes and types and will enjoy the colourful results.

Find step-by-step instructions and inspiring photos here.

Boys making nature patterns

Maths play with natural loose parts

We are approaching the time of year in which nature generously replenishes its available loose parts. Leaves fall, acorns drop, seed pods form, and there is no end to the natural materials you can collect just in your garden.

“One area of early learning particularly suited for the use of these materials is maths,” writes Dorie Ranheim. “There is a myriad of questions that can be asked to guide children’s thinking. For example, What did we find the most of? Tell me about your stick. Can you find something longer? Which rock is heavier? Through these playful interactions, rich maths language flows and becomes part of the child’s vocabulary.

“You can also use loose parts to model mathematical skills like how to count acorns using one-to-one correspondence, how to create a pattern with autumn leaves, or how to measure by comparing two feathers. All of the foundational areas of early maths can be explored in a playful way using natural loose parts.” More ideas here.

three young boys playing next to a stream

Insights from Friedrich Froebel

Young children learn naturally when allowed to explore and discover, manipulate and practice newly acquired skills through play. Play is not trivial, it's children's tool for growth. Read this short piece by Dr Stella Louis and Dr Sacha Powell for some insights from the founder of the first kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel. 
two children playing with unit blocks

An interview with Daniel Spry

Blocks are one of very few resources that allow children to work in all areas of learning at once. They encourage creativity and allow kids to turn problems over, not only with their minds, but also with their hands.
Some months before the Covid-19 pandemic began, we interviewed Early Years Consultant Daniel Spry, who has delivered block play trainings nationally and internationally for many years. Here's the interview.
 
young child looking closely at a green caterpillar

Wonder: a survival skill

In the last generation we've seen forces such as commercialism, academic pressure, and a “too hurried” lifestyle crowd out the space and time it takes to cultivate a sense of wonder in the natural world. Suddenly this has all completely changed. Perhaps parents and children spending more unscheduled time together at home will have time to watch, wonder, and appreciate the small, everyday spring miracles happening right outside the door.

There are many nature-related activities you can do with young children that require little more than stepping outside. Dr. Ruth Wilson offers some suggestions to get you started. Read here.

 

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