Skills Children Develop

Outdoor play means fresh air for healthier bodies. Play outdoors also brings special challenges to young children, from observing nature’s glory to trying new large-motor skills.

Whenever the weather is nice, take some of the usual activities out into the sun or in a shady spot. Paint at the easel or on paper hung from the fence. Blow bubbles and make prints. Draw on the sidewalk with chalk. Spread a blanket to listen to stories with neighborhood sounds as a backdrop. Build castles with cardboard boxes. Sing lustily or parade with the drums. Outdoors, the sky is the limit.

Setup Ideas

Above all, playgrounds should be safe and accessible. They also should challenge children to explore new ideas, to make friends, and to test their physical prowess. In addition to typical playground equipment, be creative with possibilities for pretend play and movement explorations. Plant a garden. Have a water table as well as a sand box. Dig in the dirt and make mud. Have a story picnic.

Teaching Strategies

Supervise. Talk with children to extend their play. Find intriguing new things to explore, such as a spider web or planes flying overhead. Where could they be going? Play games that build friendships as well as motor skills. Go on treasure hunts. Document changes in the neighborhood by visiting buildings or roads under construction. Everyone helps carry things out and in. Go outdoors every day–and dress for the weather.

Suggested Materials

  • art: large paper, paint, dough, easels, sidewalk chalk
  • games: balls, hoops
  • playground equipment to match children’s skills: climbers, swings, obstacle courses, slides
  • recycled items: cardboard boxes, tires (with holes drilled to drain water), smooth boards, dress-up props
  • water play: buckets, 4-inch brushes, bubbles, sand, hoses
Close adult supervision is required to ensure safety of young children. Projects with small parts and scissors with metal blades are for children ages 4 and older.