Playtime for Earth Lovers
How to Encourage your Mini Earth Lover
By Early Years Specialist and Founder of playHOORAY!, Claire Russell
Getting little ones out in the fresh air is so important, yet how many times have you found yourself stuck inside because you’re not quite sure how to keep them entertained outdoors? Well there are a lot of simple things you can do to initiate play outside while simultaneously helping your child learn about the environment, encouraging their curiosity and appreciation for the world around them.
I am a big believer in getting outdoors no matter the weather! So first things first, make sure you dress for the occasion. Hat, scarves, wellies, macs - whatever you need to stay warm and dry and enable you to fully enjoy outdoor play.
You may only have a small back garden but think about what is right on your doorstep. The local woods, park, beach, public footpaths, cycle tracks and shallow streams all offer a profusion of ways to play and the best bit, they are completely free! Whilst you’re out and about talk to your child about what they can see and hear, including the various signs of the season i.e. flowers in spring, red and orange leaves in autumn.
Don’t overthink it! Quite often, simple is best. For example, there is endless fun to be had in collecting natural resources - pine cones, conkers, a rainbow of leaves, sticks, shells and pretty pebbles, all of which can then be brought home and used to initiate further play or for arts and crafts. Build a mini bug hotel using sticks and leaves, lay out the conkers to create a giant piece of art, make your own story stones by painting pebbles, or create a garden rockery with shells.
Similarly, get back to basics with an eco-friendly scavenger hunt. A great play date activity, they provide the perfect opportunity for children to learn to cooperate and work together as a team. If you have very young kids, then a sheet of picture clues is your best option while written clues are ideal for encouraging older ones to practice reading.
Another easy yet super fun idea is to let your child loose with a camera and task them to photograph the various shapes and colours outside. Can they then draw what they saw when back at home?
Mud kitchens are also a great way to enable children to connect with the natural world, learning by experimenting with garden flora and fauna while boosting their cognitive and fine motor skills. All they need is some old bowls, spoons, pots, pans, and a good old helping of mud!
If they like getting dirty, then next time you are undertaking a spot of gardening ask your child to join in too. Can they help with the watering or the weeding? Or invite them to get digging and plant some bulbs in the soil. As the flowers grow it’s a great opportunity to talk about the life cycle of plants as well as the changing of the seasons with them plus they’ll love watching them bloom.
Nature provides the perfect opportunity to introduce your little ones to the magic of science too! Try searching for a rainbow after a downpour or use shiny items such as CDs, mirrors, silver foil and trays to reflect the sunlight and colours.
And if you really can’t get out, then why not visit your local library and borrow some reading books centered around the great outdoors and get inspired!
Finally, not specifically related directly to outdoor play, but as we are becoming more conscious of how our buying decisions are making an impact on the earth so we are seeking to use less plastic in our everyday lives. And so it pays to consider wooden and metal resources as fantastic alternatives for initiating play or reusing the plastic we do purchase for our children’s arts and crafts or even small toy storage.
For realistic, quick and easy activity ideas guaranteed to keep your kids captivated while outside and encourage fresh air and fun, pick up a pack of playHOORAY! Outdoor playPROMPTS.
Early years specialist, Claire Russell, is the founder of playHOORAY! After having her son in 2014 she decided to use her teaching experience to create and share activities online inspiring other parents and practitioners working with young children. The response was amazing and she quickly built up a loyal community of followers who wanted her ideas and advice, leading her to design and launch playPROMPTS in 2016.
For further information and to download the playHOORAY! app please visit www.playhooray.co.uk.
Follow Claire on social media at www.instagram.com/play.hooray and www.facebook.com/playhooray.uk where she hosts live play demos every weekday at 10am. Or join one of the 10 playHOORAY! Facebook community groups for support, inspiration and to share your own play ideas.