We had another great day outside today! We are all enjoying the cooler weather and the beauty of fall. I am trying as many different things as I can in our outdoor classroom. I love doing outdoor play centers in this area because children can freely move from center to center and explore.
At the school I teach, I am lucky because we have a wonderful outdoor area and I am a firm believer in outdoor play and outdoor learning for all kids.
However, you don’t need a special area to do these activities – just use what you have. Kids will just be happy to be outside.
It is almost Halloween, so for our outdoor play today I tried to make some of the centers Halloween themed! You can alter the centers slightly to fit whatever theme or season you are currently in – or you don’t need a theme at all!
Although I did these activities in a school setting, many of the activities could easily be done at home.
Outdoor Classroom Ideas – The Centers
Before children start at the centers, I always walk through them with them first, to show what each center includes and what to do. I also remind students that materials from each center need to stay at each center.
I let the children wander and play as they wish (within the fenced area). They are allowed to go to whatever centers are interesting to them.
Typically there ends up being a few centers that get busy and then I monitor how many children use it at once, or start a line up to use the center.
Hopefully our Halloween outdoor play gives you some ideas to try at with your class or at home.
Outdoor Play – Balloon Tap
I strung balloons in our outdoor classroom structure. This was a really simple idea, but it was very popular with students. I wanted a center that was interactive and required students to move. Kids had a blast hitting the balloons and bopping them to a friend.
If I were to do this center again, I would use more balloons, and tie them at different heights. I would also have loved to used a few huge balloons. However, I was careful to try and tie them where they were least likely to pop on the wood frame.
Outdoor Play – Spider Web
For this center, I strung orange streamers around our smaller structure to look like a spider web. I challenged the kids to get from one side to another without touching/ripping the streamers.
A few students worked really hard to pass through the spider web successfully. Since it was a bit damp, the streamers did not last long, so I used yarn with my classes later in the day.
Outdoor Classroom Ideas – Pumpkin Window Art
I love the look of this, and my students that are typically drawn to art based centers did too. I got some stick on (peel off) chalk board stickers in the shape of pumpkins from a local dollar store and stuck them to our plexiglass easels and set out chalk. Many pumpkin faces were drawn!
If you can’t find peel off stickers, I have also, in the past, simply taped a orange pumpkin to one side of the plexi glass and given children write and wipe markers. This way they could draw a face on the side without the pumpkin taped to it.
Outdoor Classroom Ideas – Music Box
Although this center is not Halloween themed, it was one of the most popular. I set a bin of musical instruments out and allowed students to explore and play. They loved the variety of instruments.
This is the other benefit of outdoor play – children were allowed to play and make noise with these instruments that would typically be way too loud for a classroom. You can put on a speaker with spooky Halloween music for kids to clap, tap and move to, as they use their instruments.
Any variety of musical instruments are perfect for the music box. They don’t have to be anything fancy.
My students have used these instruments on other occasions and they know to be careful with them so it has not been an issue for me to bring them outside. However, I would not suggest bringing out special or expensive instruments.
Outdoor Teaching Ideas – Science Outdoor Play
The children that I teach love science and I always have a few students who immediately look for, and gravitate towards, whichever science based center I have put out! Therefore, I always try to include a science center when we do our outdoor play.
For this, Halloween themed science, I used a latex glove and added food coloring and some small Halloween goodies (rings, eyeball balls etc.) I then froze the gloves overnight.
In the morning, I removed the glove and put out the ice along with eye droppers, magnifying glasses and warm water. Some students stayed focus on this center for the entire time we were outside. Anything they were able to get out, was theirs to keep!
Outdoor Classroom Ideas – Pumpkin Hunt
Get kids moving outside with a pumpkin hunt. You can paint and place the pumpkins in a small area or move as a group to find each of the pumpkins.
This is a great activity for little ones to identify and find pumpkins that match a picture.
You can paint the pumpkins or print the free images to hide around your area.
Halloween Activities – Haunted House
I created a not so spooky haunted house. A covered a row of chairs with fabric sheets and draped more sheets from the chairs to the fence. I used large clothes pins to secure the fabric and create a tent/house.
Inside the house I put 2 sensory bins with ‘bat eggs’ (water beads) and ‘zombie hair’ (cold cooked spaghetti). Children enjoyed crawling through and feeling the contents of the bins.
I also had a few lights and spooky music playing. It was a bit dark inside, but I was careful not to make it too dark and have less children willing to try out the house.
The house was not scary at all, but it was a fun sensory experience for students to go into a ‘haunted house’ and guess what the bins were actually filled with.
They also loved the fact that they had gone through a “haunted house” on Halloween – and they weren’t scared at all!
Although we are lucky to have the outdoor space that we do, all of these centers could be done without the specific outdoor structures. Balloons could be taped to the ceiling and spider web challenge could be done by wrapping yarn around chairs or couches.
I am so glad that we were able to do these centers and be outside before the weather turns really cold. However, I do have some ideas I can’t wait to try out in the snow!
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