Nature Alphabet and Number Line
Teaching and learning the alphabet can be hard for young children. It is an essential skill for children to learn, but it is important to make learning fun, and meaningful. This outdoor education activity does both and best of all it’s simple!
I love when I find activities that don’t require any prep and can be done at any time. I do a lot of outdoor education when I teach so this was a great activity to have in my back pocket for a time that I needed a quick and easy, but also meaningful lesson.
Learning with a pencil and paper is important, but if you can give children a variety of ways to learn then the different learning styles of each child can be reached.
Once you’ve tried printing and creating letters outside, try these free Alphabet Writing Practice sheets. They’re kid friendly and easy to use. Or try out these Name Letter Crafts for a fun way to practice letters and the letters in children’s name.
Outdoor Education Materials
For this outdoor education activity, you don’t need to do anything to prepare, and you don’t need any special materials.
- Outdoor Area
I did this activity with five different groups of 3-6 year olds – which meant over 100 children. It was a hit!
Although I did this activity in a school setting, it can be done anywhere and in any season. If you go for a walk, or hike with a child that is learning their letters, or numbers, this activity can happen very naturally.
The weather has finally starting looking, and feeling like spring so I have been taking my classes outside more. This activity aligned perfectly to the work children were doing in class.
Outdoor Education Activity
To start, trace the letters A-Z in the dirt. Make sure to make them nice and big so that they are easy to see.
Since I teach different groups, I also scratched the letters 1-20 into the dirt for my second group. You can do this activity with any topic you are studying.
You could trace:
- Sight Words
- Children’s Names
Trace any key words or images into the dirt that relate to a unit you are working on. Just taking children outside and looking at the words in a different space helps reinforce the words/concepts.
If you are working with slightly older children who know their letters or numbers well, you can have them use a twig and trace their letter or numbers into the dirt.
Since I was working with young children who are still working on letter formation, I traced the letters for them.
Since we were outside during this outdoor education period, I really wanted to bring nature into our activity.
We headed outside and I told each child the letter that they were going to create/fill in. I told them their letter and they stood in front of their letter.
I then gave every child a cup for them to fill with materials they found in nature. They had to choose one, or two nature items and fill their cup with it to then fill in their letter.
Nature Art Activity
We then went on a nature walk around our school and looked for interesting items to use. Children filled their cups with a great variety of natural items:
- Pine Cones
Once everyone had a full cup, we headed back to our letters and numbers.
Children returned to the letter that they were responsible for recreating/tracing over with their materials from nature.
I love the variety of materials that were used. It was a true nature number line and alphabet!
The letters and numbers looked great on the ground and stood out as being something that the children had created. Yet on the other hand they blended into the environment since they were made from items in the area.
This activity is a creative, hands-on way for children to practice printing, and forming, their numbers and letters. I love bringing children outside to learn and they are excited to spend the time doing outdoor education.
One of my favourite things about these number and letter games and activities is that you can do them anywhere. When my own children were learning their letters and numbers we would have some fun with this letter game on hikes and walks together.
I would trace letters or words into the dirt and together we would search around for different materials from nature to create the letters. We loved looking for something different to use for each letter and I always loved how beautiful they turned out.
Even during a camping trip, a trip to the beach, or a hike through the forest, this activity is a great way to practice number and letter skills – while making it fun.
Once we finished our alphabet, we went through the alphabet by each child saying their letter. Everyone walked down our alphabet line and looked at each of the letters that had been created.
As each group that I worked with created their numbers and letters, I took the groups to look at what each group had created.
We practice lots of pencil and paper printing of our letters and numbers, but doing it in this hands-on way was very beneficial.
More Outdoor Education Ideas
To extend this idea further, you could have each child trace their own name in the dirt and then create each letter using items from nature. It is great practice for kids to print their name and doing it in this way is also a great sensory experience.
Another idea to extend this activity is by creating the letters, or numbers in the dirt but either in mixed up order, or hidden all around the play area, and then challenging children to find each letter or number in order.
It becomes like a scavenger hunt, but children are learning, thinking, and active as they search.
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