Top Ten Outdoor Play Ideas
There’s no denying it, summer is in the air and it’s time to get the kids outside to blow away the winter cobwebs. There are so many great ways to get children engaged and learning outdoors, so we’ve compiled our top ten outdoor play ideas for you.
As a parent/carer you will likely have witnessed first hand the change in children once they’re let loose outdoors, with space and fresh air they become more energetic and eager to participate in learning and play. There is also much more freedom for them and you to make things bigger, better and messier! The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Statutory Framework outlines three characteristics of effective learning:
• Playing and Exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’;
• Active Learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and
• Creating and Thinking Critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.
The EYFS requires practitioners to provide outdoor play every single day. This is supported by the NHS who advise that children under 5 should be physically active through both light and energetic physical activity for at least 3 hours a day. With this in mind, we have put together our ‘Top Ten Outdoor Play Ideas’ to inspire you and your little grasshoppers into active play and learning.
1. Outdoor Play Chalk Games
A must have staple for any child playing outside is chalk. They can use them in the simplest form, mark making and creating numerous masterpieces over and over. Using chalk on a rainy day adds another dimension to a simple task and there’s plenty of opportunities to do that here!
Chalk is also a great way to introduce simple games to children. You can get them to complete a sequence of moves using a code of shapes and wiggly lines. Try writing numbers, letters or shapes and get them to hop/jump to the one you call out, the letters that are in their name or the one that has 3 sides or curved edges. You can draw a set of circles on the ground and give them beanbags to throw into them. Add numbers to the circles to tot up points. Pretty soon your little one will be coming up with chalk games of their own, making up rules and encouraging you to play!
2. Outdoor Play The Mud Kitchen
Mud kitchens have become very popular and it’s easy to see why. The lure of getting dirty is enough to draw any little person in. However you don’t need to go the whole hog and invest in a fully built kitchen, all you really need is some mud and a great baking play set. This activity encourages children to use their imaginations – to the untrained eye it’s just mud, but listen and respond carefully and you may have yourself a birthday cake decorated with cherries, purple icing and magnificent twiggy candles. All that talk is incredibly valuable.The opportunities for maths can be huge in this kind of activity too. You can talk about the jug or bowl being full, half full and empty. Which of the scoops is the biggest/smallest? Which one holds the most mud? How do they know? Try counting how many mud pies they’ve made, how many stone ‘tomatoes’ are on their pizza and how many candles are on top of the cake. You could even move into fractions when cutting it all up to share!
There is plenty of physical activity happening throughout too with digging, mixing, pouring and measuring. If getting muddy doesn’t appeal you could try…
3. Create a Fairy Garden For Outdoor Play
Getting children outdoors gives them the perfect opportunity to explore and nurture the nature around them. Planting their very own fairy garden is a perfect task for any youngster and is achievable no matter the size of your outdoor space, it can be anything from a large plant pot to a dedicated patch in the flower bed. Get your Grasshopper kitted out with a garden tool set and have them dig holes and carefully place some small plants. Encourage them to water their plants regularly and talk about what helps them to grow. To turn their space into a fully fledged fairy garden you can add your own fairy houses – painted rocks work a treat! Little windmills add a fun touch and of course, every fairy garden needs some fairies! Building this fairy garden together from scratch will promote lots of opportunities for talk. Visiting the garden centre to choose which plants to put in is a real life experience involving money. You can label the plants together using lolly sticks or painted pebbles. Then there are the endless hours of imaginary play once this little haven is complete.
4. Go on an insect hunt Outdoors
There’s a perfect opportunity to encourage children to respect and care for nature in every garden, insects! With a child-friendly magnifying glass in hand, get them searching high and low. Once they’ve found a tiny creature, wearing their gardening gloves they can gently collect and place them inside one of our bug finders or bug houses allowing them to take a closer look. If they (or you) are a little squeamish, you can always try using some of our pretend bugs first!This activity has so many maths opportunities – counting legs and wings, comparing more and less, talking about patterns with spots, stripes and symmetry; comparing lengths of worms and caterpillars.
5. Sand Play Is A Great Summer Outdoor Play Idea
All the same learning opportunities as the mud kitchen but a little less mess. Grab a bag of our kinetic sand and away you go. Sand can be a great open ended source of play for children to explore and discover. Pouring, filling, scooping all work fine motor skills, preparing little fingers for trickier tasks like writing further on. Mark making in the sand is another great way to play as well as noticing changes in the wet and dry sand.
For classic sand and water play why not add a castle bucket and some home made flags? A sure fire way to encourage talk into any play is to add characters. Our knights are the perfect little men to stand guard at the best sand castles in the land, especially if Queen Gardenia lives inside.
6. Build A Construction Site Outdoors
Role play encourages children to talk and explore language they may not usually use. Whilst in character they can try out new personas and empathise with a character as well as collaborate in new ways. For the youngest children, role play can serve as a good way to make sense of the world and what they know about it. Using kinetic sand or a large pile of pebbles and some loose parts you can easily create a construction site role play at home. Get your little one straight into role with a construction worker costume. They can be in charge of all the building works, drawing plans out on paper and giving out instructions to the workers inside the construction vehicles.They can get stuck in, digging with the excavator and knocking down with a bulldozer. For older children, you can add a clock or this magnetic tell the time game to help the workers start, finish and have tea breaks on time!
7. Pretend Play Pizza Delivery For Outdoor Play
Another outdoor play idea that is simple to set up is the pizza delivery. After taking telephone orders and creating delicious pizzas, topped with the correct number of each ingredient, The delivery worker can drive from imaginary door to imaginary door in a top of the range pizza delivery red and yellow car. As the adult facilitating this game you can make it as simple or as difficult as needed for each child. Can they write down the right number of mushrooms when you order? Then add the correct number to your pizza? You can use chalk to draw doors with numbers on along your wall or fence, so they have to deliver your pizza to the right address. You can even involve money, paying for pizza and giving change, purely for play or looking for specific numbers on the coins.
8. Outdoor Play Obstacle Course
A really fun way to get children active and using positional language is a simple obstacle course. This can test their gross motor skills and challenge them to persevere. If playing with a friend or sibling, friendly competition and encouragement can be introduced. Some idea to put into your obstacle course could include a bug tunnel, some walking feet, a few twirls of a hula hoop, completing the cup and ball game before finally scoring in the inflatable goal. All these toys promote and test coordination as well as being great exercise and pushing children into the energetic category of physical play. You could time each contestant and write down their scores, comparing to see who was the fastest. Can they complete it faster second time around?
9. Bikes & Ride-Ons For Outdoor Play
Another way to get their hearts pumping is on one of our balance bikes or wheely bugs. Get your child to help draw out a large road using chalk. They can practice turn taking and following the rules of the road. Draw parking spaces with numbers on and ask them to park in the correct bay when they’ve finished or they’re swapping vehicles.You can use the opportunity to talk about the changes in our bodies when we exercise, what does their heart feel like? Why is it important to keep fit and healthy?
10. Story Linked Outdoor Play
Outdoor play doesn’t have to be rough and tumble, if your little one needs peaceful time, sharing a story together outside can bring it to life in a whole new way. For example, you could read The Three Billy Goats Gruff together before introducing materials for your child to act it out. You can add a piece of material for the river three goats and a troll. You could extend this activity by adding blocks and asking children to build a bridge for the goats to get across. Block play can encourage the discovery and exploration of so many skills within mathematics, problem solving and imagination.
We hope you’ve found these activity ideas useful and you and your grasshoppers make the most of outdoor play. Please let us know which activity you’ll try first and your own tried and tested ideas in the comments below.