With summer approaching and the weather warming up, it’s the ideal time to head outdoors and get creative. There’s no reason that early literacy needs to be limited to an indoor space. In fact, there are lots of ways to encourage a love of reading and writing by spending time outside. Your outdoor area is a literacy-rich environment where children can experiment with language, letters, and words.
We often think that outdoor learning is synonymous with the school trip, but it needn’t be! As a parent you can use outdoor activities and trips to give your children physical examples and experiences to help them with their literacy skills. Children who may struggle with classroom-based learning often excel when learning in outdoor environments because it releases them from the pressures they may associate with school. Outdoor learning can take place in massively diverse settings – whether it’s your back garden, your local park, a heritage site, or a farm, you will find there are many activities and games you can play with your kids to stimulate and extend their literacy skills.
Here are some activities for outdoor learning, many of which I’ve enjoyed with my own children. (Click the links for more information)
- Make a name puzzle that can be played indoors or outdoors.
- Make an experience book highlighting your summer adventures. Many websites make it easy to upload your pictures and put them into books.
- Fill a bin with foam letters for alphabet recognition fun.
- Practice writing letters and words with chalk and water.
- Make your own letter box that can be used all summer long for literacy activities.
- Go on a backyard alphabet hunt.
- Make some frozen letters for a cool literacy activity on a hot summer day.
- Letters on ping pong balls are fun for fishing out of water.
- Practice phonics while playing a letter sound freeze dance.
- Play an alphabet game with water balloons.
- Use water balloons to play letter smash.
- Make your own outdoor chalkboard to practice writing letters.
- Play outdoor riddle games such as “I Spy with my little eye something that grows tall and rhymes with flea.”
- Use nature materials as props for group storytelling.
- Read books about outdoor adventures and nature under the trees.
- Practice letter writing with water and paintbrushes on the sidewalk.
- Build an imaginary garden in the sandbox and tell a fascinating story about it.
- Act out favorite storybooks on play equipment.
- Take a letter walk to look for familiar letters on signs and walls.
- Invite children to label the outside environment.
- Listen to the sounds of nature and try to replicate them.
- Play Letters on the Lawn.
Some ideas can be as simple as writing out a few sight words in chalk. Call out a sight word, and let them use fly swatters to smack the words as hard as they want. Children can spray words with water guns to form the letters. Use bubble wrap and script a sight word onto each bubble then, as students read each word correctly, allow them to pop the bubble! Fun sight word practice and fine motor development in one!