At Today’s Family, we believe in the importance of outdoor play. This is true in all of our programs: from the summer camps and EarlyON programs that are running right now, to our centre-based and Licensed Home Child Care programs. Today, we are taking a field trip to see how regular outdoor excursions at one Licensed Home Child Care location turned into an incredible learning project.
Every time a child plays outdoors, Mother Nature presents them with dozens of learning opportunities. Frequent trips outside do more than make sure that children are getting enough fresh air: outdoor learning presents children with a natural, ever-changing landscape to explore. From bugs to critters, to flowers and leaves, to birds, squirrels and other animals, there is always something new to learn about.
At one of our Licensed Home Child Care programs, our caregiver found a way to turn their daily walks into an incredible learning opportunity. “Whenever we go on walks, the children spot many different animals,” she explained. “I wanted to find a way to track and display the items the children were spotting along the trails.”
Her solution was to print out a map of the neighbourhood and introduce it to the children. She highlighted their regular walking trails and then invited the children to picture their daily walks. “Do you remember this stop sign?” she asked. “Look how far we walk every day!”
She then invited the children to decorate the map with drawings of interesting things they saw along their walk. “The children picked a few of their favourite animals and drew pictures of them,” she said. “We pointed out where on the map we saw the animals, so they could make the connection between the squirrels and birds and the map itself.”
The map also empowered the children to make more complicated observations about their surroundings. One day, after it had rained, the children noticed some snails on the sidewalk. The next day, when it was dry, the snails were gone! A week later, after it had rained again, the snails were back. The children were able to make notes of where the snails were and checked that spot after different kinds of weather. They discovered that snails like to come out when it is raining when the sidewalk is still wet.
Over the course of weeks, the children’s map grew and grew. It helped the children foster a sense of belonging in their neighbourhood, as they were able to know it better with the use of the map. They were able to express themselves through drawings and using the map to talk about their walks. And having a place to make note of what they saw made the children more active and engaged on their walks.