Outdoor Learning in the EYFS

Unlocking the Power of Outdoor Learning in the EYFS: Practical Tips for Early Years Teachers

What better way to ignite children’s curiosity, stimulate their senses, and nurture their love for learning than by unlocking the power of outdoor learning in the EYFS? I want to delve into some of the benefits of outdoor learning and equip you with practical tips to integrate it into your EYFS curriculum. Get ready to unlock a world of endless possibilities as we embark on this exciting journey together!

Here are my top tips for unlocking the power of outdoor learning in the EYFS

Create a designated outdoor learning area

Consider the layout and design of the outdoor space to cater to the diverse needs and interests of children. Try to incorporate various zones, such as sensory experiences, messy play, nature exploration, and physical play, to provide a range of experiences that stimulate different aspects of development. Ensure the space is safe, accessible, and well-maintained to promote children’s physical well-being and encourage their independence.

Provide a selection of open ended resources and materials as part of your continuous provision. This will support children’s development as they flow between learning environments. Try to think about resources that may not be suited to an indoor environment, for example provide large scale construction materials, ride on toys, tools for gardening, etc.  It is also important to regularly review and refresh the resources to keep the outdoor learning environment engaging and inspiring for children. (You may want to download my CP Audit and use this in your outdoor environment to help you to improve your provision.

Image courtesy of Ms EYFS

Incorporate nature

Children explore their natural environment using magnifying glasses

When it comes to outdoor learning, incorporating nature is essential for creating meaningful experiences. Nature provides rich and diverse resources that stimulate curiosity. To incorporate nature into outdoor learning activities, consider including elements such as plants, trees, rocks, and water. Encourage children to explore and interact with their surroundings, observe wildlife, and engage in sensory experiences. Provide resources that encourage children to engage with the natural world such as investigation tools e.g. magnifying glasses, sensory plants e.g. herbs and collections of natural materials that support hands on exploration.

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Planning outdoor learning experiences

When planning outdoor learning, try not to see it as a totally separate entity… continuous provision is all about the experiences and learning opportunities that you provide for your children every day, so see your outdoor environment as a continuation of your indoor one, but with unique play experiences to be had. When planning for your continuous provision, plan for both the indoor and outdoor environment considering the same key areas- skill building linked to your curriculum, play behaviours, open ended resources, and adult interactions. My CP Planning provides comprehensive overviews of both indoor and outdoor provision which is easily adaptable to meet the needs of your setting.

It is also important to consider outdoor learning when you think about enhancements to your provision. Think about learning experiences that may not be possible in the indoor environment, and the unique opportunities that your outdoor environment provides. The newly updated provision planning banks now include a dedicated set of enhancement ideas for use in the outdoor space to support you in taking learning outside too! Check them out here- Provision Planning Banks

Promoting physical development

An outdoor learning obstacle course using tyres and balance beams

Outdoor learning provides an ideal setting for promoting physical development. By providing ample space for running, jumping, climbing, balancing, and large-scale mark making, children will have the opportunity to build and refine their gross motor skills. It is also possible to incorporate activities that develop fine motor skills, such as digging, pouring, and manipulating easily into the outdoor environment through resources such as water play stations, mud kitchens and sand pits.

Image courtesy of The Empowered Educator

Enhancing creativity and imagination

Transient Art using leaves, stones and chalk

The outdoor environment offers endless possibilities for enhancing children’s creativity and imagination. One of my favourite enhancements in the outdoor area is “transient art” where children can explore open ended, natural resources and loose parts to create their own artistic impressions. Creativity isn’t just about art and the various linked techniques, it also includes music, role play and performance, so think about how your outdoor environment can develop this. Set up a stage where children can perform, provide a music making area where children can explore making sounds, or you could weave in role play opportunities in a much BIGGER way. One of the most used outdoor role play areas I’ve ever seen involved a car wash enhancement… the imagination, language and physical growth were a wonder to behold especially with the boys! And all it took was some bubbly water and a few sponges!

Image shows transient art in action in The Davies’ household- IITTP HQ!

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom in conjunction with Natural England confirm in their 2022 reports that high quality learning outside the classroom has a wide range of positive outcomes for both health, learning and well-being so it’s important that in the early years we champion spending time outside. Outdoor learning not only provides numerous benefits for children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development but also cultivates a lifelong love for the natural world. By embracing the power of outdoor learning, we can inspire a sense of wonder, ignite creativity, and nurture a sense of environmental responsibility. That’s why, when I updated my provision planning banks, I knew it was important to include enhancement ideas to support you in getting your little learners outside! Let’s unlock the potential of outdoor learning in the EYFS and embark on a journey of discovery and growth with our little ones, as they explore, learn, and thrive in the great outdoors.

Emma xx