Taking learning outdoors: bank holiday ideas

After rather spoiling early summer weather, August has not been as kind we’d hoped, so fingers crossed we can all enjoy the outdoors this bank holiday weekend before schools start again. I love using local environments and the outdoors as much as possible for both teaching and learning opportunities. My little boy (Master L) is certainly at his happiest exploring the great outdoors. Here are some fun learning activities for picnics or a trip to the seaside this weekend (I’m ever optimistic).

Learning tips for picnicsOutdoor-learning-skills-3

Children love eating or drinking somewhere different to the kitchen/dining table so why not go on a picnic adventure? Here are some learning opportunities to take with you.

Counting: cutlery, plates, bowls, cups, napkins all need counting out before a picnic, a perfect task for small ones.

Lists: practise writing skills by asking your child to write a list of things to buy or remember.

Motor Skills: packing and unpacking objects, laying places, opening and closing containers, eating with fingers, eating with cutlery and pouring drinks are all excellent ways to develop motor skills.

Map Skills: why not find a new exciting place to explore for a picnic? Look at maps before and after to see where you have been. Children love making maps so perhaps they could create a one showing how to get to your picnic spot or create a map of the picnic spot afterwards.

Preparing food together develops so many skills

Communication: planning a picnic can be great fun, especially if you plan alongside your little learners. Discuss together what you may need, where to go, when to go and how you are going to get there. Then you have the fun of chatting away when you are eating your picnic.

Cooking: preparing food together develops so many skills: speaking and listening, reading recipes, fine motor skills, team work, working towards an end result etc. Plan a menu together and choose some things that your child can prepare or make. If you are buying your picnic, let your child have ownership and choose some items (a good time to discuss healthy food choices). The Tickle Finger Cookbook (Annabel Woolmer, £8.99, Amazon) has fabulous recipes for family cooking, lots of which would work well on a picnic.

Let your child carry things to give them a sense of responsibility

Photos: take lots and let your little people take some too. They love looking back over photographs and they create instant memories for them. You can always turn a photo into a postcard and get your child to send it to someone using the amazing Touchnote App (available on the App Store).

Adventures: if you want to encourage your little people to walk to a certain spot, turn it into an adventure. Talk about things they can spot on the way, count birds, trees or flowers, walk, run, hop and skip just to add to the fun. Let your child carry something for the picnic to give them a sense of responsibility.

Learning tips for the seasideOutdoor-learning-skills-2

The seaside offers so many learning opportunities for all ages and I thought I’d share some of our best activities, ideas and plans for a fun filled beach trip.

• Pattern & picture making: using stones, shells, pebbles, seaweed etc see what patterns or pictures you can make on the sand.

• Name writing: use pebbles, sticks, shells, stones or seaweed to make names or even write them in the sand using fingers or sticks.

• Nature treasure hunt: ask children or give them a list of items (use pictures if they are unable to read yet) to find items such as a mussel shell, seaweed or a crab claw. Alternatively children can take items home or photograph them (especially if still alive) and then look up the items to find out what they have found.

• Seaside diary/scrap book: record findings, memories and exciting times through writing, drawing, sticking and even adding photos.

Make numbers from bits found on the beach or even write numbers or sums in the sand

• Numbers: the beach is full of fantastic objects to count. Make numbers from bits found on the beach and even write numbers or sums in the sand.

Outdoor-learning-skills-1• Motor Skills: building sand castles, skimming stones, throwing, digging, fishing, swimming, surfing, beach games such as football, rounders or cricket, and climbing all aid motor skills.

• Rock pooling: catching shrimps was a highlight for Master L’s oldest cousin this summer, especially when we cooked and served them with lunch! The excitement of watching them change colour when cooking, peeling them and eating the tiny (or even minute) mouthfuls was worth a rainy day activity.

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