Ideas - Early Childhood Educators



"Outdoor environments are important venues for children's learning through exploration, discovery, and experimentation. Children's curiosity and learning is triggered in spaces and places where unique materials and resources are available, and are influenced by adults that support their sense of wonderment."

 Beverlie Dietze and Diane Kashin, 2016


Many of the ideas and concepts below are from Beverlie Dietze and Bora Kim's document - An Assessment Tool in Support of Creating Children's Outdoor Play Environments with a Sense of Wonder and Nature Ideas by Beverlie Dietze and Diane Kashin.

Want to go deeper into the theory and practice of outdoor play in the early years? Find additional resources here.


Reasons for Outdoor Play

The Get Outside and Play Early Childhood Network has 4 reasons outdoor play is important in the early years. See them and download a PDF here. You are welcome to distribute this resource to your families and anyone you think would benefit from this information!


How Outdoor Play

Follow our four simple steps to outdoor play! See them and download a PDF here. You are welcome to distribute this resources as well!


Nature Ideas Booklet by Beverlie Dietze and Diane Kashin

This book is available for purchase to support the Get Outside and Play Early Childhood Network. It includes 50 Outdoor Play Curiosity Triggers to support outdoor play in the early years. See a sample activity here. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can order on-line at:



Loose Parts

Loose parts are unrestricted materials that children can move, change, carry, combine, take apart and redesign in multiple ways. Loose parts do not have a specific set of directions or structure. Loose parts may be natural, manufactured, and from recycled materials. Are you using loose parts in your outdoor play space? Loose parts encourage creativity and imagination because they can be used in many different ways. Interested in learning more about loose parts? This is a great manual from Playground Ideas.

Try this....

  • Introduce natural loose parts in your outdoor play space. A few examples include: twigs, leaves, hay, stones, pinecones and stumps.
  • Think about other loose parts to bring outside like: blankets, tires, ropes, boards, PVC pipes, boxes.
  • Engage your parents! The best loose parts are real materials, ask the plumber for left over PVC pipes, ask the carpenter for left over wood scraps.


Experiential Play

We often think of outdoor play as the place where children can 'run of steam' with the focus being only on the physical benefits to being outside. How does your outdoor space support different type of play? 

Try this....

  • Make music. Use baking pans, cans, spoons, hubcaps attach them to your fence to make a musical wall.
  • Language and literacy. Using smooth rocks write the children's names and other simple words on the rocks with a permanent marker. Invite the children to find their names. Over time, the children can help add more words to the rock pile and create stories using their rocks.
  • Dramatic play. Create a kitchen outdoors with old pots, pans and bowls. Don't forget the water and soil!


5 Activities to Peak Curiosity

  1. Micro-hike. Give each child a length of string and toothpicks or small sticks. Ask them to find an interesting piece of ground to lay out their string. Ask them to imagine that they are an ant or other small insect going for hike along the string. What would they see along the way? Use the toothpicks or sticks to indicate points of interest along the trail. That rock could be a huge mountain to an ant, that piece of grass a towering forest. Give them an opportunity to share their hike with friends.
  2. Colour chips. Collect colour chips from the paint or hardware store, see how many of the colours you can find outside.
  3. Nest building. Spring is perfect time to learn about nests. Ask the children to think about their own homes, what is the outside made of? What about your bed? If you were a baby bird what would you need? If you are close to a natural area, allow the children to collect materials to build a nest. Alternatively, provide a variety of natural materials in your play space for the children to gather and build with.
  4. Nature badge. Create a bracelet or badge with duct tape, sticky side up. The children collect natural items to add to the badge or bracelet.
  5. Bird binoculars. Using toilet paper rolls, make binoculars to explore outdoors. This focusing tool can be used to search for birds, butterflies and clouds!


Looking for more ideas? The Alberta Recreation and Parks Association created a great activity guide full of straight forward activities for outdoor play. Download it here.