Learning Through Outdoor Play

14th September, 2011 - Posted by - 6 Comments

Editor’s Note: Readers of this blog know two things for sure:  1) We are HUGE proponents of outdoor play and learning, and 2) We are also HUGE fans of Jenny Kable and her work.

I love Jenny’s call to action at the end of this post, and it couldn’t me more true. It is up to those of us in the field to help parents understand and value outdoor play-based learning for its incredible benefits not only to their children’s education, but to their overall health and well being.

Just look at the motor development and skill building — and physical activity — going on in these photos. Talk about a promising practice! We know the research tells us that outdoor play increases moderate to vigorous physical activity more than indoor play, and I would say these pictures back the research up!

More than any worksheet or glittery art project that will ever hang on a refrigerator, the experiences of outdoor play and exploring nature will  impact children in so many ways, and across every developmental domain. :-)  ~ Bethe

When you’re three you dearly want to climb, but sometimes your little legs won’t get you up that first step and you need a little boost.




What looks like a simple episode of outdoor play is actually a pretty big deal.  This is competence and resilience in action.  The boys faced a challenge and instead of asking for help they assessed the problem and acted by developing a plan and adapting it to the situation as it unfolded.

There is so much happening here - teamwork; persistence; creative thinking; carrying out a plan; taking risks; feeling successful; being independent - and yet outdoor moments like these can be over looked and underestimated by adults in favour of skills like reading and writing.

Unlike writing your name, these skills aren’t easy to measure or test.  They can’t be taken home and shown to grandparents and hung on the fridge.

And yet it is these skills rather than the ability to write your name that will stand children in good stead when they make the big transition to school - and indeed throughout their life.

It is up to us to make these moments as glamorous for parents as a name written on a piece of artwork.  It is up to us to give learning through play the ‘wow’ factor that it deserves.

Stay tuned… Jenny

Blogger Bio: Jenny Kable is an early childhood educator, teaching and learning from children in a progressive preschool setting nestled in the beautiful Australian bush. Her blog, Let The Children Play, is filled with wonderful ideas and inspiration for educators, caregivers and parents alike. Jenny is a favorite blogger around here! You can also follow her on Twitter@preschoolplay.

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Cheryl Turner

September 14th, 2011 at 5:57 pm    

What a great photo journal of this activity. I love it! I wish more people would see less potential “danger” and more learning, joy and accomplishment in this. Thank you for posting it.


September 14th, 2011 at 6:53 pm    

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Cheryl. Risk aversion in our society is so out of control — and children are suffering because of it. Reasonable Risk is vital to optimal development. Thanks for chiming in. Cheers- Bethe

jenny @ let the children play

September 15th, 2011 at 12:24 am    

Aww, thanks Bethe for your lovely words and for sharing this post. We try every day to let our parents see the value in outdoor play, and you know what – it’s working! It is also heartening that so many parents choose our preschool because our kids can play outdoors all day if they so choose.


September 15th, 2011 at 12:35 am    

thanks for posting this, I was wondering if u have some ideas for bub outside? I have a 6 month old boy who seems to be developing a little slowly, I’m not stressed about it but thought some outdoor fun might be in order. My hubby n I took him to a park the other day but had nooo idea what we were doing lol. Any suggestions would be appreciated.



September 30th, 2011 at 6:42 pm    

Hi Deanna: Just getting him out there to experience the outdoors with all his senses is so important. Try different times of days and in different weather. There are sounds to hear, birds & falling leaves to track with his eyes, pine cones and leaves to touch, etc. The Vit D exposure is great for kids and parents alike. Enjoy discovering the natural world along with your child at all ages — it will help deepen your relationship and provide lots of health and wellbeing benefits.

Cheers- Bethe


January 21st, 2012 at 1:36 pm    

I LOVE this! I was outside aLL the time as a kid. Honestly, nothing made me happier than a big pile of dirt! (Except maybe MUD.)There are shades of color you can only see outdoors. I used to take my daughter’s baby swing out on the porch when she was itty bitty. She would be so wide eyed. We camp a lot now, and all of the kids hardly go to the campgroung playground. They find SO many ways to entertain themselves. They are so stimulated out there, they make up songs and games, and entertain us adults. :)

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