We all need a little fresh air. Not only is being outside good for our health, but it is also all good for our learning. Yes, you can learn about the alphabet, writing, phonological awareness, and more in the great outdoors with these early literacy activities.
Inspiration for Spending More Time Outside
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15 Minutes Outside- 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kidsby Rebecca P. Cohen is a goldmine of simple ideas to promote outdoor togetherness with children during every season of the year. In this age of technology, we tend to spend more time indoors and less time outside exploring nature. Don’t miss out on the great benefits of the outdoors such as sunshine, fresh air, and physical activity.
Cohen offers 365 ideas of activities to do with kids outside. Though the book’s primary purpose isn’t about developing literacy outdoors, she does offer several suggestions for doing just that. In January, she encourages you to keep a nature journal or do some star-gazing with a guide-book such as The Kids Book of the Night Sky by Ann Love and Jane Drake. In April, try gathering sticks and twigs to create your ABCs or words. As fall rolls around, let your kids do their homework outside or collect some vegetables or herbs from a garden and then follow a recipe to create a dish.
I was inspired to brainstorm some other outdoor activities that could promote literacy. Try some of Cohen’s ideas or find some inspiration below to enjoy the outdoors with children during every season of the year.
8 Outdoor Literacy Ideas
1. Digital ABC Hunt
Grab a digital camera and hunt for letters in nature. Develop the pictures (black and white looks best) and create word art such as a child’s first name, a family’s last name, or an inspirational word. My mom created the art above to spelled our family’s last name. She framed each letter and then attached a magnet to the back of each frame.
2. Jump Rope Rhymes
Jumping rope is a great physical exercise. Sing a rhyme while jumping and now you also have a great literacy workout. The book, Anna Banana Jump-Rope Rhymes by Joanna Cole has over 50 pages of rhymes to chant. How about this one that predicts the first letter of your future sweetheart? I remember having great fun with this type of rhyme when I was young.
Strawberry shortcake, cream on top.
Tell me the name of my sweetheart.
3. Act Out a Story
There are so many great adventurous picture books that can be acted out in your backyard, in a park, or on a playground. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and We’re Going on a Lion Hunt by David Axtell are two repetitive tales that beg for some action movements outside. Children can pretend to swish through the grass, splash through the water, squish squash through mud, and tiptoe through a cave all while searching for a bear or lion. Children can even create their own version of a We’re Going on a __________.
Hello Toes! Hello Feet! by Ann Whitford Paul is another action story. Hopping, clumping and clomping, leaping, skipping, jumping, stamping, shuffling, and creeping are just some of the great words children will learn the difference between in this super cute tale. This book is great for vocabulary development.
4. Paint Your Words
Time to study spelling or sight words again? Gather a bucket with water and a paintbrush (the big painter kind- not the little watercolor brushes) and head outside. Children can “paint” words on the sidewalk or if you have a brick surface that works even better. If it’s really warm outside, your words will disappear like magic. Of course, sidewalk chalk also works great for this activity.
5. ABC Scavenger Hunt
Go on an alphabet scavenger hunt. Search the neighborhood for things that begin with each letter of the alphabet. A-alley, B-bark on a tree, C-cumulus clouds, D– dog, and so on.
Use our alphabet chart to guide your walk.—>Get the ABC Printable Chart here.
6. Read and Write Outside
When I was a 2nd-grade teacher, my kids loved to take their independent reading books outside, sit on the playground equipment and read. On the next pleasant day, why not find a cozy spot outside and unwind with a good book. Maybe you could even do this after a walk to your nearest library for some new reads. Or, you might even try taking your journal outside and do some writing.
For more outdoor reading spots, check out this just right reading spots. —>See the Reading Spots
Need some reading recommendation ideas? We have over 150 book lists to help.
7. Create Stationery
Gather some art supplies (cardstock or heavy construction paper, crayons, paint and a clipboard) and head outdoors. Create stationery (cards and letter writing paper) to send to friends and family.
You could do a crayon rubbing of tree bark or paint a scene of your backyard. Stay outside or head back indoors to write a letter or card to someone special.
8. Sight Word Hide and Seek
Write sight words or vocabulary words on individual cards. Hide them throughout the yard or playground. Now you are ready to seek them out. Have someone call out a word and then try to find the hidden word.
Get outside and enjoy some learning fun!
More Literacy Resources to Use With the Kids
This post first appeared on GBBB on 2/13/12.