It Not "Just Recess" Anymore!

Teachers often heave a sigh of relief when they take their students out to recess. Finally! The children can burn off the pent up energy they had been accruing for the past few hours indoors. But what if we change our outlook on outdoor play time? What if we create an outdoor environment that offered all of the learning opportunities that one would typically find indoors? What if children could run out to a well-planned play yard to find experiences in math, science, nature, dramatic play, water, building and construction, sensory activities, physical development, art and music? What if they play yard developed critical thinking, discovery, problem solving, and cooperative skills? The result would be that we wouldn't have "just recess" anymore. We would have The Outdoor Classroom!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NEEDED: Nature Inspired Ideas!

Do you have any wonderful nature-inspired ideas to share? Our Outdoor Classroom is always filled with so many fabulous activities. We have dramatic play, music, art, blocks, sensory bins, fine motor, sand, writing, bikes and more. But it always seems that "nature" itself gets overlooked. We garden, we play in the sand, and we've added the token box of "Nature Exploration" items (pinecones, tree cookies, etc) to the sandbox. But I want to add MORE! Any ideas? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Also, I was told by my director that we have a bundle of 8 foot willow branches for use in the Outdoor Classroom. I would love to use them, but I am stumped as to how. If you have any photos or ideas for adding willow branches to the environment, please help. THANKS!!

You can post your ideas in the comments or post to the Linky below.

Exploring Nature With Children


  1. I would definitely check let the children play for some of her photos. I have seen photos where people have taken willow branches and woven them into a tunnel. But those were live, young branches so they were flexible. And in the summer months they would be full of leaves so it makes a nice shady spot.

    With my toddlers I have always done gardening. We grow some flowers because who doesn't love to see a flower bloom. Some we have started from seed and some we have bought seedlings. They love the sunflowers and can see how the flower actually produces the seeds (which is my rationale for not letting them pick all the flowers). But we really do more food. We have grown pumpkins and other winter gourds/squash then we pick them in fall to bring inside for our farmer's market. Cherry tomatoes are popular with the children but I heard st some point the the leaves on the plant are contagious so I would check that out.

    Planting the right plants can also bring more nature to you in the form of insects, birds (it helps that we can see ours through the window since we scare the birds away). Our butterfly bush attracts a lot of hummingbirds as well. And while I always thought of those as summer plants, we actually see more butterflies in early fall so if you are not in session during the summer, you won't be missing out.

    If I think of more ideas, I'll share.

  2. Hi, we have 3 willow teepees in our playground & they have definately helped to bring nature closer to the children, they can see the seasons now. I don't have a specific link to anything about it but if you are Facebook check out these photos of our willow

  3. Thanks for the wonderful comments. We LOVE gardening and have a large garden for the children. I love the farmer's market idea!
    Kierna, thanks for the photos of your willow teepees. They are gorgeous!

  4. We also love to take butterfly nets and magnifiers outside. Amazingly, we have yet to lose a magnifying glass. They've been 'lost' for a day or two but they have held up well. This week I took our sensory table outside- it is filled with leaves and other fall nature materials we and the parents collected. We don't have many trees on our playground so we just imported our leaves. They played with it more outside than they did when it was inside.

  5. Clare Revera's website has some great ideas - she's a professional willow worker

    Also have a look at how The Coombes School use willow:

    Hope this helps!