With summer before us, now’s the perfect time to get outside and teach your kids in a more fun and interactive way.
“Outdoor learning” — as it’s officially known — has been shown to have some serious benefits for your child’s development. But what are these benefits, exactly? And what differentiates an outdoor lesson, from a walk in the park?
Let’s find out…
What is outdoor learning?
There’s a lot more to outdoor learning than meets the eye.
Sure, taking a traditional lesson outside is an example of outdoor learning. But there are other, far less structured ways that young people can learn in the great outdoors — and that’s what outdoor learning is all about.
In a nutshell, “outdoor learning” refers to all the ways a child can learn through discovery, experimentation, connecting to the natural world, and engaging in environmental activities.
It’s about giving kids the opportunity to develop confidence, knowledge, and different skills through direct, hands-on action that isn’t confined to the classroom.
Popular examples of outdoor learning include:
- School trips
- Adventure sports
- Sail training
- Coastal and woodland activities (like fishing and camping)
We’ll dive into outdoor learning examples a bit later. But first, let’s take a look at why learning in the outdoors is so important.
What are the benefits of outdoor learning?
From instilling confidence to encouraging teamwork, outdoor learning provides a brilliant opportunity for students to develop skills that they might not be able to learn at their desks.
For very young children, learning outside can help to develop key sensory skills, while slightly older children will benefit from both the physical and psychological development offered by getting adventurous and having some fun.
To be a little more specific, here are five of the best benefits to outdoor learning:
#1 – Learning in the outdoors teaches self-awareness
Exploration is a great way for a child to build their self-awareness — after a few outdoor experiences, they’ll soon be more familiar with what they enjoy, what they don’t, and how they interact with others in a freer, less structured environment.
#2 – It develops practical problem-solving skills
The great outdoors presents kids with practical problems to solve; scenarios that require a bit of creative thinking.
Whether it’s learning how to plant a flower or working out the best route on a scavenger hunt, mother nature will quickly teach young people how to think on their feet.
#3 – It encourages good health habits
In today’s digital age, more and more young people are staying in and missing out on a lot of outdoor activity and exercise.
Outdoor learning helps encourage an awareness of health and wellbeing — all from a young age. It requires kids to keep active and get out of the house as much as possible.
#4 – It teaches children about the environment
The more a child engages with the environment, the more they’ll understand about it and why it needs protection. Academically, this will support your child down the line, but it’ll also teach them to respect the environment more generally — a great skill to have in a society that’s slowly going green.
#5 – Outdoor learning enhances a child’s communication skills
There’s only so many communication and team-building skills a child can learn in the classroom. Take them outside, though, and suddenly the freedom to explore will quickly encourage them to interact with others in a more dynamic and interactive way.
5 outdoor learning activities to try with your child or school students
Now you know what outdoor learning is and why it’s so important, how can you incorporate it into your child’s everyday life? Here are five of our favorite outdoor learning activities to get you started.
#1 – Draw what you see
Drawing challenges always test a kid’s observational skills. But something really magical happens when you take that creative flair outside.
Maybe they can focus on something really small, like a flower petal — capturing the delicate features, and how they link up. Or maybe you task them with a big task, like painting a lake or field. Either way, this challenge will encourage them to see the world from all new perspectives.
#2 – Paint with water!
On a hot and dry day, a bucket of water and a paintbrush is all you need for your child to let loose and ‘paint’ the pavement. This is a fun and clever way of letting your child experiment with new art forms… and the best part? There’s no mess to clear up after!
#3 – Set up a treasure hunt
Find a few ‘treasures’ in your house and hide them round the garden. Your kids will be eager to get exploring, and all their problem solving will be rewarded if you make the goodies worth their while. (Sugar-free candy should do the trick!)
#4 – Host a nature scavenger hunt
Download our garden facts worksheet bundle, and ask your kids to work through the elements checklist as they search through your garden. This is a great way of bringing your child’s learning outside — which is, after all, the ultimate goal of outdoor learning.
#5 – Let your kids build a den
Den building is a happy memory for many adults. But it’s also one of the most educational outdoor lessons around!
The skills your child will learn while constructing will prepare them for thinking outside the box and doing things a little differently. Just make sure they’re safe, and don’t build with anything too heavy!
Mother nature is calling…
Outdoor learning is a great way of teaching your kids in a fun, interactive, and less structured way this summer. Your kids will be all the better for it — and you’ll enjoy it, too!
Looking for more ways to keep your child engaged this summer? Check out our list of super fun summer activities for middle schoolers, and visit the blog for more ideas for kids of all ages.
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