020 8770 3222 enquiries@fennies.com

Enquire today!
Call us on 020 8770 3222


Innovative Outdoor Learning Activities for Early Years

In this blog, Suki Kaur delves into some inspiring and effective outdoor learning activities that go beyond traditional methods.

An educational outdoor area featuring a circular patterned pavement, play structures, landscaped plants, and a large building with a clock tower under a blue sky.

At Fennies, we firmly believe outdoor learning takes centre stage in igniting a thirst for learning amongst intuitive and curious young minds. As methods of learning and education platforms are ever-evolving, the Early Years recognises the part our natural environment can play. At Fennies Beckenham, Mosaic Way, our stunning garden provides children with multiple opportunities to explore, discover and unlock their imaginations and allows them to immerse themselves in nature’s offerings. 

In this blog, I’ll delve into some inspiring and effective outdoor learning activities that go beyond traditional methods.

Why is outdoor play imperative in the Early Years? 

The benefits of outdoor play are endless. Engaging, inviting and inclusive activities allow children to learn in a range of ways and to develop their skills in all areas of learning. At Fennies Beckenham, Mosaic Way, we aspire for our outdoor space to be a place of development, building new connections and supporting children’s well-being. 

A woman with glasses, wearing a blue shirt, reads a book to young children in an outdoor setting surrounded by green plants.

How does outdoor play link to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)?

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

In facing challenges in the outdoor environment, such as navigating a range of terrains or climbing, children begin to develop their own resilience. By having a go, trying again and succeeding at a given task, children build their confidence, which is a transferable skill to serve them well in various encounters. Time spent in natural outdoor environments can reduce children’s stress levels and in turn, promote their emotional well-being. 

Physical Development

The outdoor environment allows children to explore their gross motor skills, such as running, jumping and climbing. They develop spatial awareness, strengthen muscles and build on their core strength. Collecting objects such as rocks, sticks and stones allows children to develop their fine motor skills and can improve their hand-eye coordination.  

Communication and Language

Exposure to new experiences and objects in the natural world allows children to be introduced to new vocabulary, build on their existing knowledge, and begin to make key connections. Outdoor play allows children to dive into a range of sensory experiences, evoking questions of ‘why’ and ‘how’. Parent-child communication can support children’s language development in the form of open-ended questions, descriptive vocabulary and context-specific language. 

Two young children, one with brown skin and curly hair and the other with blonde hair, are viewed from behind. they are looking at a fence, holding magnifying glasses and a yellow bucket.

What does outdoor learning look like in the Early Years? 

Learning outdoors in the Early Years has many forms, but the opportunities that contribute towards making a significant impact are those that go beyond traditional methods. Here are some innovative ideas, that the children at Fennies love! These activities  will undoubtedly support children in navigating their growing curiosity:


Take a moment to find a cosy outdoor space such as under a tree or create a den and use the area to share stories. Use puppets and costumes to bring your stories to life. The great outdoors is thriving with natural resources that can be collected by the children and used as props, encouraging them to use their ever-evolving imaginations. Storytelling helps to build confidence and can enhance language development so why not bring storytime outside?

 Outdoor Art

The outdoors is a hub of open-ended resources. Children can collect stones, twigs, leaves and flowers to create collages on the ground, experiment with building structures such as mini teepees and build bug hotels for minibeasts. Extend this by adding fresh findings to the garden. 

Give children the time to create their art over a period of a few days or weeks and watch as they are mesmerised by the changes that happen over time, such as leaves changing colour and flowers wilting away. Children will soon begin to question ‘how’ and ‘why’ things change, increasing their environmental awareness.  

A young child with blond hair holds a decorative watering can next to a pot of vivid purple and red flowers, appearing focused and engaged in the task.

Investigation Station

Give children the opportunity to hunt for natural materials found in the garden or on a nature walk. Allow them an allocated space, such as a tuff tray or mud kitchen to combine the materials to make potions and perfumes, or to make believe through role play and imagination. Children can collect items using small containers and baskets, giving them a sense of responsibility and focus. Provide magnifying glasses, spades and scales, allowing them to study their findings and to promote teamwork.  

Mini Allotment

Take your children on a fascinating journey of growing their own fruits and vegetables. Begin by having conversations about where fruits and vegetables come from and what they might need to make them grow. Use spades and other such gardening tools to prepare your space, plant the seeds together and observe their growth over a period of time. Allow the children to get their hands dirty and help to build resilience by teaching them that dirt can be washed away. Gardening activities promote teamwork, patience, active learning and a sense of achievement. Extend this by growing wildflowers, encouraging butterflies and bumblebees into your garden and promoting children’s awareness and language as you go. 

Viewing Stations

Create spaces that invite wildlife to your outdoor space, such as bird feeders, bird baths, wildflowers, bug hotels and hedgehog boxes, all of which can be made by your children. As they begin to attract the local wildlife, children can observe nature’s beauty. Add binoculars to help them see into the distance. Provide children with checklists so they can mark off what they can see, picture cards to help them identify birds and insects and Polaroid cameras to capture the moment. Consider placing a night cam to capture activity overnight and ignite children’s awe of the world around them. You may even see a fox or badger, animals that children may not see during the day. Viewing stations allow children to discover new things, develop their ability to tolerate delay as they patiently wait and form an appreciation for the world around them. 


Top Tips 

  • Be aware of plants that could be toxic to children. Assess risks in the environment and ensure your children can explore safely. 
  • Encourage teamwork and ask open-ended questions. 
  • Explore a variety of seasons; talk about the change in weather, colours, terrain and temperature. 
  • Help children to use all their senses; listen to the sounds that nature provides, pick homegrown fruits to taste and feel different textures of soil, leaves and sand. 
  • Maths is all around us – ask children to count the number of sticks they have collected and use them to create patterns. 
  • Be a role model and play alongside children to support their growing confidence and willingness to explore. 


Outdoor play is an integral part of a child’s holistic development. Outdoor play has the potential to unlock a lifetime of children’s curiosity, learning and exploration. Use your gardens, local parks, fields and nature walks as an extension of the classroom – the opportunities are endless. Create impactful memories and experiences, those that your children will recall in years!


“I know of no pleasure deeper than that which comes from contemplating the natural world and trying to understand it.” – Sir David Attenborough 

 Suki Kaur

Suki Kaur

Nursery Manager

Share this post

Sign up