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Investigation of outdoor play in early years

The environment can serve a valuable purpose when it is set up to expose children to opportunities to explore, question, and develop theories about how things work. Negotiation, language, and cooperation are all skills that develop through diverse opportunities.

Adults who are overly intrusive or not involved at all with children are not able to notice what children want to explore and learn about in their surroundings. Here are some key questions to consider in assuring your play space provides opportunities for interactions: Is outdoor time maximized through an intentional, well-planned approach to arranging the space and using the time?

Are there opportunities for children to encounter each other on a bench, along a pathway intersection, in a play store, or on a puppet stage? Do children have the freedom to select safe materials to use outdoors to build upon their natural sense of exploration? Does this outdoor space offer enough choices for children?

Are there adult-sized places for parents and other visitors to interact with children? Do child and adult interactions seem natural and relaxed, allowing for more creative approaches to learning and problem solving? Are adults following the lead of the child? Play and Learning Settings Play and learning settings are defined spaces that support specific activities or groups of activities with specific toys or play materials.

Here are a few key questions for planning play and learning settings: Is there an array of play and learning settings within the outdoor physical play space? Boredom and negative social behavior may result.

Is there adequate storage for outdoor play items? Are there enough materials to eliminate potential arguing over supplies or toys? Are there constructed play settings, such as a stage, deck, playhouse, sound wall, or animal habitats?

Teaching Example One spring, the teacher noticed that the children were very curious about nature. They picked up worms, they heard the spring birds singing, they picked the first crocuses of the season, and they warmed their shoulders in the sun.

To build upon their curiosity, the teacher decided to place several items about the play yard to encourage exploration. He placed plenty of small shovels and seed packets by the four tire gardens, placed several other buckets and shovels near a dirt pile, put magnifying glasses and collecting trays on the picnic table, and placed five sets of binoculars and bird books on the deck.

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As the children rotated around the play area, teachers asked questions about what the children were noticing or making. Program The outdoor space is an extension of the classroom and should be considered another space for learning. The outdoor program should address the child as a whole physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially.

Teachers may include planned activities, as well as let ideas emerge from interactions that occur while outside. Teachers who closely observe children playing and learning, and who listen to see what children are inquiring about, are better able to plan an effective program. They can use the outdoors effectively as a learning space by preparing it to maximize learning opportunities.

Making the Most of Outdoor Time with Preschool Children

Diverse settings within the environment extend child investigation, encourage spontaneous exploration and movement, and enrich interactions. Diverse materials provide children with stimuli for new discoveries and new ways of expressing themselves. Here are a few key points for teachers to consider when planning an outdoor learning program for young children: Does the program allow children to choose from activities and materials that are rotated for a variety of experiences?

Are choices provided beyond playing extensively on basic, anchored equipment and open play areas? Diverse choices help children learn problem solving. Has consideration been given to each curriculum area such as art, music, science, language, math to be explored outside?

Teaching Example Two teachers planned a picnic outside, but when they began to eat, the children noticed that there were ants.

10 fun activities to develop exploration and investigation skills

Instead of picking up the blanket and moving the group, the teachers let the children encounter the ants and listened intently to their questions. The teachers decided to build upon their curiosity by planning to capture their questions on a large easel and to discuss their comments the next day.

They also planned to bring in large picture books about insects and to provide clay to children who wanted to make their own ant models. These experiences might lead to building an ant farm or other projects.

Teachers who are either uninvolved or too intrusive, judgmental, or focused on rules limit the creative learning opportunities that children seek.

Teachers who are willing to explore and have a personal sense of wonder are better able to engage children in the world. Responsive teachers ask open-ended questions to stretch the ability of children to wonder even further and to learn by testing the limits of thinking and problem solving through trial and error. Some considerations for teachers include: How do teachers incorporate outdoor play and learning as a regular part of the program and daily schedule?

Are teachers learning how to establish quality outdoor play and learning environments? Do teachers refrain from overuse of teacher-led activities that limit the possibilities for individuals, pairs, or larger groups of children to engage in their own self-directed learning? How are teachers missing opportunities to engage with children in play and learning activities by being involved in unrelated tasks like reading a novel or a newspaper?