Our outdoor learning environment is a large open space in which children practice social skills such as cooperation, negotiation, communication, and problem-solving as they work together. We have a balance of quiet calm areas and active louder areas. Some of the areas of our outdoor learning environment include:
- Dramatic play: through role-playing children are able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, developing empathy. They are able to act out life experiences through socio-dramatic play.
- Art area: this allows the opportunity for creativity and self-expression through the use of an immense amount of art materials and sensory experiences.
- Loose parts patios: these patios include a variety of materials that can be used in an endless variety of ways. We have a patio geared for older 3 and 4 year olds as well as a patio geared toward 2’s and younger 3’s.
- Writing center: we have a cart with a variety of age-appropriate writing tools for the children to be able to explore in our shaded garden. The children strengthen their fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination. This area also gives the children the opportunity to continue any work that they were doing inside.
- Sensory tables: sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, and social interaction.
- Book area: cozy area for reading books and cuddling with stuffed animals. Children can retreat to this area to relax.
- Climbing area: great for upper strength development. Children can hang and climb on the monkey bars as they strengthen their physical development and coordination.
- Messy materials area: is an important part of our outdoor environment. It allows children to explore the properties of mud and engage in rich sensory play while expressing their creativity and enhancing their fine motor skills. Emergent math and science skills are practiced as children make before and after comparisons, solve problems, test theories, and measure and count ingredients for their mud pies. This is the scientific process in action! The open-ended nature of mud encourages creative thinking and allows children to freely create without fear of making mistakes. This also contributes to a child’s sense of self, helping to build a strong inner sense of competency.