Kaycee Cooper exploring the river by Mahon Park in April 2012. His favorite part of the day was throwing sticks into the water and seeing them go down the river. Picture taken by Sheena Cooper.

Bringing the Outdoors into Early Childhood Education

This article looks at outdoor environments and the ways we use and value them. The outdoor environment has "an abundance of development and learning potential for children" but there is a perception that outdoor spaces are simply for children to "burn off steam". This short article is an invitation for educators to rethink the ways in which they use outdoor space. The OECD notes that Canada, a country with an abundance of space and land, often has poor quality yards attached to its child care centres. We should reconsider our use of the natural spaces around us such as forests and reconsider the ways in which we plan and design playgrounds that feature only man-made materials and very little space for natural exploration.

Working at a centre where I have the flexibility to explore the surrounding forest has allowed me to see how children respond to free and unstructured time in this environment. Incredible learning happens within this space as well as a high level of relationship building. I have seen relationships grow between the children and the forest as they gain intimate knowledge about this environment, as well as relationships growing amongst peers as they physically challenge themselves to do more in this space.


Childcare Resource and Research Unit. (2012). Bringing the outdoors into early childhood education. Retrieved from http://www.childcarecanada.org/resources/issue-files/bringing-outdoors-early-childhood-education