Outdoor Learning: Bringing Education Outside One Lesson at a Time

Take your learning outside! Here in the South of the United States most children go to school and spend much of their learning day inside.  Our family is big on getting kids outside. When my kids come home from school, I try to connect what they are learning within the classroom walls with the world around them. We routinely take our education outdoors after school hours and on weekends. It’s a great way to practice essential skills in a new way. Almost every classroom skill can be transferred outdoors and adapted based on the materials available where you live. 

outdoor learning, Bringing Education Outside One Lesson at a Time

What is outdoor learning?

Outdoor learning is a general term for any organized educational activity that takes place outside. Outdoor learning may be, but is not limited to environmental studies.  However, we also consider outdoor learning to be any activity outdoors in which educational standards are taught.

What materials encourage outdoor learning?

Children are naturally curious about the world around them. If you would like to bring more standard academic topics to your outdoor learning space, consider adding one, or all, of these open ended learning materials to your backyard.

  • Buckets. Children love to collect and sort natural objects while playing outdoors. Providing buckets encourages children to sort, collect, and compare.
  • Yardstick or Measuring Tape. These measuring tools encourage children to find out how long a worm may be, how tall a plant grows, or how far they can roll a log.
  • XLarge Dice. Adding a home-made or store bought giant dice invites numbers to your outdoor learning space. Children can create all sorts of math games where they count and add.
  • Foam, Plastic, or Wooden Letters . Adding the alphabet to your learning space invites literacy and letter learning to backyard fun.  We love these alphabet blocks made from wood slices that Jodie from Growing Book by Book has made.

Take learning outside – idea inspiration.

Do you have access to a clean sandbox?  Strengthen fine motor with this classic sand art project.  Want to add in some literacy skills? Challenge children to write words with glue! 

Have an open  sidewalk? Grab a box of sidewalk chalk play a number leaf game, learn your sight words,  or sort toy vehicles by colors.  

Sight Word Chalk Outdoor Learning Game for Kids

You may even want to pick a famous building and re-create it as a playhouse or picture on your driveway.

Does your little one love gathering sticks on their nature hike? Use them to teach tally marks. 

Or maybe yours is a pocket acorn collector like mine. (I feel like he may be part squirrel and part child based on the number of acorns he has stashed in the car and in his room). Use the acorns, or any other collectable nature item to build math concepts since as number since, rote counting, and numerical order. 

How can you increase the amount of time your child spends learning outside?

Love the idea of taking learning outside, but not sure how to bring more education to natural spaces? Consider:

  1. First, make a point to schedule routine outdoor learning opportunities for your child each week.
  2. Advocate for your child’s school to spend more time learning outside.
  3. Then, consider joining an environmental adventure group or outdoor education club.
  4. Last, but not least, take advantage of your local community resources. Attend guided bird walks, visit local botanical gardens and spend time as a family going on nature hikes.

More outdoor learning inspiration from around the world:

Outdoor Learning and Play at Korean Sports Day  by

Taking Learning Outside with Language Games by  

Outdoor Learning: Misty Ireland versus Sunny Portugal by

Outdoor Learning: Forget About the Flashcards and Q&A by

5 Language Learning Outdoor Activities For Your Children by


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Former teacher and mom to 3, I enjoy sharing educational activities for kids. Co-author of the book, 100 Fun and Easy Learning Games for Kids.

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