Learning and Development

Sustainable outdoor activity ideas

  • Sustainable outdoor activity ideas

Sarah Seaman, AKA The Muddy Puddle Teacher, offers outdoor inspiration with these nature-based activity ideas…

Whether you’re a full-blown forest school enthusiast or an outdoor learning newbie, we all get stuck for ideas from time to time. These sustainable activities will help you create engaging lessons full of cross-curricular links.

1 | Bamboo shapes

Bamboo canes are a great outdoor resource because they’re equal in length and perfect for outdoor maths. Ensure you remind children before using bamboo canes that ‘Sticks stay low, they tickle our toe – if they go high, they poke us in the eye!’.

Ask the children to create a triangle. How many sticks will they need? How many sides does a triangle have? 

Once they have made the triangle, can your learners identify how many corners it has by placing a fallen leaf on each corner? 

Invite the children to look around their outdoor space and fill the triangle with any bits of nature that also have a similar shape to a triangle. 

Repeat this with other basic 2D shapes such as a square, rectangle and circle. 

Store your bamboo outside to save you time.  Use three tyres stacked up, one on top of the other and store the bamboo sticks in there. 

2 | Natural phoneme frames

Ask the children to make a three-box phoneme frame using bamboo sticks. Fill the first box with sand and ask them to draw out the initial letter for the word c-a-t in the sand. 

What letter comes next?  What’s the last sound we hear? 

Can they jump on each sound, segmenting and blending as they go?  Try more CVC words then move on to a four-box frame. 

This can make a great outdoor continuous provision activity for children to play with and create their own words. 

Although this activity appears to be a literacy task, it also embeds PSED and PD, as outdoor learning generally does. The children engage in fine motor and gross motor work as well as negotiating, turn-taking and sharing as they work together.  Plus, we know playing with nature, and being outside is all good for self-regulating and feeling great.

3 | Rainy day challenge

Start collecting bottles and containers such as yoghurt pots of various sizes then invite the children to get in their waterproofs and venture outside with a yoghurt pot each. 

Place a bucket in the middle of your outdoor space. This will be your ‘main’ container which learners will pour their water amounts into. 

Ask them to catch rain droplets and pour what they have collected into the main bucket.

Next, try asking for different amounts. For instance, ‘Bring me your yoghurt pot when it is half full, nearly full, full or just a little full.’ 

At the end, introduce millilitres and litres to the children by measuring how much you collected in the main bucket altogether. 

Record this on a chart then try and beat your score every time a rainy day comes.

Recycling waste not only shows the children that you are a great green educator but these items can be left outside and if they weather, it has been no cost to you. 

4 | Water bottle bowling

Gather up lots of water bottles of a similar shape.  Fill them halfway with water and add colour just for fun. 

Write one number on each bottle, using a permanent marker. Use numbers you are working on – between one and ten, for example. 

Place the bottles in a triangle formation, like skittles at a bowling alley. 

Provide a ball and decide with the children where they should roll from. Then start bowling! 

When they have rolled, count how many points were scored by adding up the numbers on the fallen skittles. 

Keep a record by using chalk on the floor. To simplify the game more, just give each bottle the number one. 

Sarah Seaman is a former teacher of 12 years and is trained as a Level 3 Forest School Leader. Sarah is the founder of The Muddy Puddle Teacher Approach®