Exploring outdoors

Getting out and about – great for stimulating your child’s curiosity to explore the world outside their home.

Child with leaf outdoors

Introduction

Young children learn best by being very active physically. This is especially true of boys, who can sometimes find it almost painful to sit down for a long time – they need to move.

Going outdoors is a great solution for young children who need to be on the move - it gives them plenty of opportunities to learn while their bodies are active and busy.

There are plenty of things you can do to make being outside fun and exciting – it can be as simple as picking up leaves or splashing in puddles on your way to the bus stop, rooting around in the earth looking for creepy crawlies or simply enjoying the fresh air and freedom to left off steam on an open stretch of grass.

How CBeebies can help

If your child is a bit of a couch potato, then there are lots of CBeebies shows that will encourage them to explore and enjoy the world around them.

In Come Outside, Auntie Mabel & Pippin the dog explore the outside world in their aeroplane and land at various places to find out more. And in Big City Park – which is set in a beautiful city park in Northern Ireland - children get to go out and about and explore nature’s hidden treasures in all weathers.

Another great show for encouraging your child to explore the natural world is Green Balloon Club. The team fly through the skies spotting young members who then give reports on what they've seen where they live. There are charts and spot cards for your child to print out and take with them when they go looking for wildlife.

And not forgetting Mighty-Mites, which is a lively and energetic series that encourages children to get up and have a go at a range of exciting activities, such as go-karting, kite-flying and indoor rock climbing.

How to make a magic moment

Although special trips to the park, woods or farm are full of magic moments you can also make the most of everyday activities. There is so much to talk about when going to the shops with children, catching the bus, or even posting a letter – e.g. you can talk about which bus to catch, how to get there, what to buy, and what you see along the way.

Because children learn quickly when information is full of meaning for them, it’s good to just talk about what you are doing as these everyday events are packed with good memories and knowledge.

And why not try to spot some flowers and mini beasts along the way (if it’s summer time you could look out for ladybirds and butterflies). Or you could pick up some interesting leaves, twigs or stones to take home with you.

By Dawn Kelly

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Top tips

  • Fun things your child can do in your back garden or local park/open space:
  • Sandpits are great for building sandcastles and
  • pretend play with buckets and spades. If you live near a beach, even better!Go on a minibeast hunt. Explore the plants and the
  • edges of flower borders and see if you can find any snails, worms, beetles,
  • butterflies or bees.Have a picnic (with or without teddies. Children
  • often try new foods outdoors as the fresh air and exercise can work up an
  • appetite and also make them more willing to try something new.Kick a ball around or make up running race games
  • where you do a little circuit around some trees or markers on the ground. Get
  • creative and see what you can come up with!If you have your own garden - or even just a window
  • box or a few large plant pots – give your child a mini trowel and get digging!
  • Great for their fine motor skills as they grip the trowel and turn the earth
  • over. See if they can find any creepy crawlies living in the soil.

Expert opinion

Learning to run around and climb is vital for children’s growth and development. It helps them learn about the world and their place in it. Outdoor space - in gardens, woodlands and parks - provides children with so much of what they need to stimulate their minds and bodies.

Children often challenge themselves more outdoors and take a few risks, which helps them build confidence. They also invent new ways of playing and use the nature around them as toys, thus developing their ‘pretend’ skills that are vital for making sense of the world. 

Young children need to be outside in the middle of winter just as much as they do in the summer. Their time outdoors doing interesting things will help them to digest their food and have a good night’s sleep (as they will be physically tired). It will make them healthier, fitter and stronger.

Dawn Kelly, Baby & Child Development Expert, (RGN, RSCN, BSc, PGDipHV, PGDipEd, RNT, PGDipRes)

Parent's tale

Whenever I take my three girls to any open space, they wriggle free from my hand and run. They absolutely adore testing themselves. They want to see how fast they can run, how loud they can shout and how high they feel safe to climb. Sometimes I’m desperate to stop them in case they fall or hurt themselves (and I have to really hold myself back), but I know it’s important for them to explore.

Sarah, from Newcastle

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