Go outside in Autumn
Go outside in Autumn
The wonderful thing about learning opportunities is that they happen anywhere. They aren't limited to times or places, but just occur naturally while you are out and about. And one of the most natural of learning environments is outdoors. Whether it's muddy treks with the dog or playing in the front garden, or even the short walk to school, the outdoors is the perfect place to explore and develop so many different concepts, and bring to life knowledge and skills from the classroom.
In effect, any outdoor play or activity is a blank canvas, waiting for you to add the colour. It's worthwhile remembering once in a while that learning is an ongoing process, and that the natural world around us makes for a powerful and memorable learning experience. Share your child's discoveries and explorations and unleash their imagination.
For the very young ones:
1. Embed their understanding of time and change by taking them out in different weathers. Talk about how they are dressed and whether their clothes are right for the weather. Look at the sky from indoors and see if they can predict what the weather will be or decide what they will need to wear e.g. taking an umbrella if it looks as though it might rain.
2. Foster care for their environment and for living things. Look closely at plants, and talk about different shapes and colours. Collect seasonal objects and get creative making collages or treasure baskets, make bark rubbings, or even count them. Your child will love exploring with all their senses.
3. Use your child's toys and investigate. Fly kites or hold windmills so your child can experiment with the weather. Encourage them to splash in puddles or collect rainwater in a bucket or bottle. This will help develop their scientific and investigative skills.
For the younger ones
1. Explore number and shape and colour with more focus. Support your child in number recognition by asking them to identify numbers they see in the environment (bus stops and front doors are good starting points). Ask your child to collect and count the same number of objects such as leaves or conkers. Encourage them to place objects in a straight line and point at each object as they count. They could also practice writing numbers with chalk.
2. Help develop your little one's vocabulary. Children take in and learn so much more from their immediate experience, so have fun with the autumnal environment. As, for example, your child kicks the autumn leaves, encourage them to think of as many words as they can to describe them. Rustling, crackly, falling, swirling, swishy...to name a few.
3. Enjoy printing with leaves. Choose two or three different colours and make a repeating pattern of the leaf prints. Discuss with your child which colour would come next in the pattern, and encourage them to build it independently. Why not cut out the finished pattern and hang it up on the window or use it for decoration?
For the older ones
1. After collecting different coloured leaves or various autumnal found objects, help your child to handle data, e.g. by counting 7 red leaves, 4 brown leaves, 8 conkers etc. You can ask your child simple questions about the data, such as “How many more red leaves are there than brown leaves?” and more complicated questions that will challenge their problem solving skills, such as “Which do you think is the easiest colour of leaf to find?” Your child may enjoy making a pictogram with the objects or a graph of the results.
2. Develop your child's investigative skills by looking at the properties of different materials. Building a den or hideaway for an animal to shelter in during the autumn and winter months may prove an enjoyable challenge. Your child will need to think about making something that will withstand both rain and wind, for example, and something that will blend in with the natural environment.
3. Make a list of objects your child should be able to find in the outdoors at this time of year, and challenge them to find as many as they can. Depending on your child's exact age and ability, they could write a simple list of the objects they find, or the location at which they were found. They could make a treasure hunt of their own and devise their own clues. You could give bonus points for more obscure objects! Use the objects as an opportunity for your child to continue to develop their observational and creative skills by doing some close observational drawings.
For the advanced
1. Invest in a nature book and perhaps a pair of binoculars. Encourage a nature loving, fact motivated child to keep a close eye on local wildlife and habitats, identifying different animals and plants, and noting which creatures come and go. They could observe feeding habits, or watch the location at different times of day. Encourage them to find out more about hibernation and feeding in winter. They could keep a journal of the things they see.
2. Geo-caching and orienteering are interesting and enjoyable experiences for children. In a practical way, they develop problem solving skills, and encourage your child to approach a problem from different angles. When out walking, encourage your child to use their mathematical knowledge and observational skills to read the co-ordinates on a map, and see if they can plan your route.
3. Give your child the opportunity to plan a vegetable garden (perhaps a few vegetables or herbs in a pot) and decide for themselves what should be planted at this time of year (if anything!), and which plants will survive the winter. If you have a garden, ask them to help you with any preparations you may be making for the winter. They will enjoy keeping compost good to use, and learning the difference between plants and weeds. They can keep a close eye on garden plants and be encouraged to take care of them when the weather gets colder by providing them with water bottle cloches, or covering them with fleece or cotton wool.
The most important thing
1. There's no such thing as bad weather, there is only inappropriate clothing! From the time they first begin nursery, children as young as three are encouraged to take their learning outdoors, and build on the skills they are beginning to develop in the classroom. They learn to wrap up in the cold. Puddle suits, wellies, hats, scarves and gloves are ideal in this sort of weather.
2. The outdoors is a great place for physical development at any age and stage. Jumping in puddles, safely climbing trees, and running are all great ways for your child to burn excess energy. Add into that the benefits of being and learning in the outdoors and you are onto a winner!
3. Children learn a great deal through uninterrupted but observed play where an adult can be engaged and involved if and when it is necessary. Allow your child to direct their own outdoor play, and scaffold them to deepen it, and further embed concepts and skills. Move in to support and refocus when they need you to and you will be surprised and delighted by the skills they show you. Most of all, have fun!