Nature’s Classroom by Nikki Shapiro

Repost from 2015

Children and the outdoors are meant to go hand in hand. They love to explore new things, watch insects fly, look at the colors of a flower and the shapes of leaves. Their sense of wonder is amazing! The outdoors is a perfect classroom for a childcare. All you need is a backyard or front yard, or open space at a park. And there are many ways to utilize the outdoor classroom for children of all ages.

Read stories under a tree or on the grass, and follow up the story with some bark rubbings – paper and broken crayons, rub the crayon over the paper on the bark and look at the patterns. Use grasses and sticks as paintbrushes on an easel or on paper on a clipboard. Play a listening game, everyone closes their eyes and listens for sounds in nature.

Children love to be outside. They enjoy getting dirty – touching mud or rocks and they learn about the world by what they touch, see and hear. One of my most cherished moments is when a toddler hears a bird and points to it, or a preschooler tells everyone to shhhhh because they hear a buzzing sound. Use your imagination to have fun with young children outdoors. Toilet paper tubes can by eye spy nature glasses on a bug hunt. A white sheet on the ground is a great place to watch insects crawl or jump, or to lie down as a group and watch for birds to fly overhead. Old tree stumps are great chairs for outdoor reading. An old log can be a balance beam or a hide away for playing with resin animals and making their homes. Tweezers and a bucket are great for pretending to be a bird and making a nest – the tweezers are the bird’s beak.

There are many great ideas for playing with children outdoors. In my childcare program, my hope is to spark a love of nature that will stay with children forever. As a mom of 5, I can honestly say that my children still love the outdoors and camping to this day. And it is because they were encouraged to love nature and being outdoors at a young age.

Nikki Shapiro
Natural Wonders Childcare

Also, check out this great resource where Nikki was a contributor at the following website

Natural Wonders: A Guide to Early Childhood for Environmental Educators