Outdoor activity and learning are key to our philosophy at Brightling, because research shows they offer significant intellectual, physical and emotional benefits.
Unless Environment Canada determines the weather unsafe for outdoor play, we have our kiddos out in our creative play yards, on nature walks, in parks, and exploring our neighbourhoods every morning and every afternoon.
In our Junior Kindergarten Enrichment Program, we incorporate outdoor learning elements into our curriculum – using the changing leaves, for example, to teach our children their colours; counting rocks and flowers; the opportunities are endless. We love layering the traditional curriculum with non-traditional approaches, to give our children a broader experience of learning.
You can do this at home, too – not only does it give you excuses to get outside, but it also gives you a chance to be involved in your child’s learning. You already know the magic of watching those little brains connect with information about their world; it’s worth any extra effort to create the opportunity. And the dividends in calmer kiddos after outdoor adventures are never a bad thing, either.
Here are a few ways you can foster outdoor learning at home:
- Go hunting for seeds. Every plant produces seeds; your child may already be aware of them from seeing them in their fruit. In any Winnipeg park this month (if not your back yard!) you’ll find the seeds of trees, ready to drop to the ground. Explain to your child how plants produce seeds so more of the same kind of tree will grow: sometimes they grow right where they drop, and other times, they are eaten by animals, and then grow further away once the animals have finished “digesting” them!
If your child is old enough to play Name That Tree, the Manitoba government publishes a guide to native trees in our province – you can head to the park with a list of Manitoba trees, and see how many you can identify.
- Count anything. It can be as simple as flowers or trees or rocks… or you can make it more complicated if your kiddo is up for it. On a walk (with a clipboard… accuracy is of utmost importance!), count how many other people you see. How many are walking, running, or cycling? How many are walking dogs? How many dogs are brown or black or white or grey? How many dogs are small enough to fit in Mom’s purse? You can make the counting game as silly as you’d like… it’s all learning.
- Create an outdoor alphabet. As a family, find things that start with each letter of the alphabet, in order. First, we need to find something that begins with an A: air is all around us! Now, something that begins with a B (trees have bark), etc. If you expect some letters to be a big challenge, it’s not cheating to bring something in your bag that you can set out for them to find. (“Oh my goodness, who would have expected to find a picture of a zebra here in the park?!”)
Choose something that’s right for your child’s age (and if you’re not sure what that is, please reach out! We’re happy to help!), make it fun, and make it happen outdoors. Then enjoy that magic of learning together.