Outdoor Play: Know The Benefits And Get Some Ideas!
By Pentagon Play
Play is central to early childhood education. Pupils need play to develop an awareness of themselves, objects, and others in the available space around them.
Creating a play space where this is possible, and knowing how you can encourage your pupils to engage in play activities that support their classroom learning is key in cementing classroom learning.
The Importance of Learning through Play
Classroom learning is vital for teaching children’s key concepts about the world around them, however, play provides an outlet for pupils to relate that knowledge to a relevant experience to them, solidifying it in their brains.
For example, learning how to count from 1-10 may seem confusing initially, until they begin to use that knowledge to count the blocks that they are using to build their tower. This helps to cement the knowledge in their heads and encourages them to use these skills more often.
Jean Piaget once said, ‘play is the work of childhood’, and he doubled down on this by identifying the 4 different types of play (Functional, Constructive, Symbolic and Games with rules) that children engage in, focusing in on just how children learn through play:
Each of these stages teaches children different life skills and helps them to solidify the knowledge they’ve learnt within the classroom.
Spending time outdoors is also beneficial for pupils. Immersing themselves in the outdoor world keeps them active and healthy, away from screens and interacting with the world around them.
So naturally, outdoor play has all of these benefits and more!
Outdoor Play Ideas
Whilst encouraging free play outdoors is great for stimulating children’s imaginations and giving them independence, sometimes it’s nice to have a guided activity to lead, or some inspiration to give them to keep them on the right track of supporting their school learning.
Hence why we’ve collated some outdoor play activities and ideas to inspire you and ensure that your pupils are making the most of their outdoor playtime!
An Active Play Activity – Going on a Bear Hunt Theme
Tell the children that they’re going to be going on their own bear hunt in the playground – they have a special route to follow in a particular order if they’d like to be able to meet the bear.
Don’t worry, it’s a very friendly bear – and it even has a name (you choose)! So, they’re going to need to listen very carefully to your instructions, and make sure that they follow them in the right order.
At this point, you can describe to the children a route to follow that you have pre-planned, using the whatever facilities you have in your play space, whether it be a bridge, a trim trail, a hopscotch marking or something similar. Of course, it’s absolutely fine to be flexible and make up the route on the spot, just so long as you’re sure to use all of the different directions and positional concepts that you want to teach the children, e.g. “Oh look, grass! Long, wavy grass. Ask the children to climb up some steps/blocks, over an incline object, and slide or roll down something with a decline, which acts as the ‘grassy bank’ to the bottom.”
Supporting understanding of the world
This activity is ideal for getting Early Years pupils involved in active play!
Find something that could work as a bridge- even better if the pupils can actually cross it- but if not, construct one from cardboard boxes or toy blocks to show the basic bridge structure.
Ask the children – do they know what bridges are used for in the world around us? Can you explain some of their uses? Have any of them been on a bridge before, perhaps to cross a road or a river? Now ask them to take a closer look at the Play Bridge. Can they describe its shape? Tell the children that they’re going to do some stretching exercises, making the shape of a bridge using their own bodies. Here you can demonstrate how and encourage children to do some core strengthening exercises.
- Sitting with their knees bent in front of them, feet placed on the floor, to create a bridge with their legs. Too easy? Try lifting alternate legs in the air – it’s harder than it sounds!
- Keeping their feet on the floor, place their hands behind them on the floor, palms down, and lift their body up towards the sky to make a crab-shaped bridge. How long can you hold it for?
These activities have been brought to you by Pentagon Play. Pentagon Play is the UK’s Leading School Playground Provider, who produce a variety of education play products and lesson plans to support learning through play.