Hello to my lovely readers! I know some of you may be curious about nature preschool. How do we have preschool outdoors? Here are eight keys to success.
- Make sure you have food and water, especially if you want to spend more than an hour outdoors. The best snacks are finger food, since eating with utensils can be tricky when seated on a rock or patch of uneven ground. Apples, nuts, dried fruit, crackers and cheese are easy to pack and easy to eat.
- Dress for success. Each climate and environment is different but you need protection from the elements no matter where you are. Choose closed toed footwear. Long socks, long sleeves and long pants protect from prickly bushes or insect bites. Hats protect from sun/tick bites and keep you warm in winter. Gloves or mittens can be layered if needed. Consider bringing extras in case children get wet. Extra socks and mittens are a really good idea because hands and feet get wet easily as children explore. We love our hand/toe warmers when it’s cold. Slip one into your gloves or boots and they will keep you nice and toasty on the coldest of days. In our climate, layers work well for varying temperatures. We wear rain pants almost daily from September to June.
- Use what you find. There’s so much out there that can become play things for children. A puddle. A stick. Rocks, shells, leaves, pinecones, fallen trees. Search for bugs, keep your eyes open for tracks in the mud or snow. Wonder about the holes in trees and how they got there.
- Bring simple things to help you explore. A magnifying glass, a rope, a map, a camera, a compass, a piece of charcoal or chalk, a small empty container, a small battery operated candle or flashlight. You don’t need all these things every day. Try one thing at a time, offer it to the children and see what they do with it. They may surprise you.
- Revisit the same spots during different seasons. Notice the changes and how you can explore differently during different weather.
- Remember that you can do indoor things outdoors too. Reading, drawing, painting, singing and dancing to music can be done anywhere and can be more fun outdoors. Sitting in a tree with your favourite book can be blissful. Invite children to enjoy quieter pursuits too. Bring a hammock and books or crayons and a sketchbook.
- You don’t need to have all the answers. If you think of it as an opportunity to learn together and get curious, there are apps and books that you can use to identify plants, birds, and fungi.
- Consider safety. In the event of high winds or stormy weather, it’s best to safe the exploring for another day. Know what to do if you encounter a wild animal. Know your exit routes and the shortest way out of the woods from where you are. Scan the area for anything harmful to children and teach them the hazards they may encounter and how to manage. For example, we teach our children to look at mushrooms but not to touch. Consider proximity to water, roadways, cliffs or other dangers. Bring plenty of adults to help with supervision. We have a 1:8 ratio indoors but outdoors, its usually a 1:4 ratio.
Readers, thank you for stopping by! I hope you’ll venture out and try a walk outdoors. Even if you don’t work in an outdoor program, you can still bring children outside.
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