Five Tips For Parents On How To Encourage Outdoor Learning – From An ECDA Fellow

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Little Day Out had an opportunity to speak to Ms Pushpavalli, principal of Ramadakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten, recently at the Early Childhood Conference on how to encourage outdoor learning.

Ms Narayanasamy Pushpavalli, ECDA Fellow. Photo: Early Childhood Development Agency
Ms Narayanasamy Pushpavalli, ECDA Fellow. Photo: Early Childhood Development Agency

She is an Early Childhood Development Agency Fellow and a sector veteran in the field of early childhood education. We spoke with her on what parents who are keen to engage their child in outdoor learning can do.

How To Encourage Outdoor Learning

Tip #1: Let your child lead!

Most of the time, parents do not have to consciously point out objects of interest as the child will take interest in what catches his or her eye. Build on that observation to spark a conversation. For instance, what caught the children’s eye during our own neighbourhood walkabout was a postbox; they noticed that the postbox was very hot. Questions about temperature change and the weather could then be discussed, leading to a lively discourse on cause and effect based on a mere postbox!

Tip #2: Notice and noticing with the child

Notice and noticing with the child

At the keynote address by Dr Jane Waters during the Early Childhood Conference, Dr Waters advised adults to “notice and notice together” with the child. Parents do not have to make grand plans to head outdoors for “noticing” to happen. This can happen while crossing the road or at the void deck, at the community garden or a nearby playground!

Tip #3: Don’t overreact when there is a fall

When a child falls and has a minor cut, move on quickly and don’t put too much attention on the bruises. Children are generally resilient, and unless they are seriously hurt, making too much of a fuss over a minor bruise can inhibit potential future adventures.

Tip #4: Keep a scrapbook or photo diary of your child’s observations

Keep a Scrapbook or photo diary of your child’s observations

One way of recording observations is using a phone camera to take pictures of the object in its environment. Ms Pushpa’s belief is “Don’t pluck what you did not plant”. Thus, taking photos and compiling them, writing some words or having a parent scribe for the child would be helpful to support the learning outdoors. One handy tool to have always is a ziplock bag to contain things that can be brought home – for instance, seeds, fallen petals, feathers, rocks.

Tip #5: Don’t put limitations on children

As children are naturally curious and eager to learn, we should encourage this disposition. If there are hazy conditions, outdoor time could be limited, materials like as fallen leaves or dead insects could be brought home for further observation. If there are mobility issues, parents should slow down their pace to accommodate the child’s speed.

Don’t put limitations on the children - tips on outdoor learning

As the Nordics believe, there is no such thing as bad weather only bad dressing. We hope parents will be encouraged to bring the children outdoors to the great classroom called Nature. Adventure is out there!