Summer may be winding down but open-air learning and adventurous play don’t need to stop. With a bit of planning, and the right clothing, children, parents, and educators can enjoy spending time in nature all year round—even when snow’s on the ground.
If you don’t really consider yourself to be the “outdoorsy” type, a new resource from the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada (CNAC) can help. Thrive Outside offers practical tips and resources to support parents, teachers, and early childhood educators to continue exploring nature with children, whatever the weather.
“We know that outside is safest right now physically, and we’ve long known and felt that it’s good for us emotionally and psychologically,” said Petra Eperjesi, manager of Forest School Canada, CNAC’s professional learning program. “We can help educators and caregivers foster rich play and learning outdoors—even if they’ve never done it before,”
Tips for outdoor learning and play
The free Thrive Outside portal provides practical tips and strategies to deal with common challenges, such as:
- How to stay warm in frigid winter months
- What to include in a first aid kit
- How to include children with special needs in outdoor activities
- How to manage risk when kids are engaged in adventurous play such as climbing trees or playing with sticks
According to Stephanie Smith, CNAC’s manager of projects and special initiatives, the portal was created in response to an avalanche of questions from parents and educators about Forest School and other programs.
Related read: Be a lifeguard to your child’s risky play
Linking nature activities to curriculum
The portal also includes some tips for teachers on how to link outdoor activities to their provincial curriculum. For example, a child observing ants in an ant hill could be an opening to learn about insect habitats, food chains, and where bugs go in the winter.
While Forest School programs are typically aimed at preschoolers and children in early elementary school, Smith said rich learning opportunities are present in natural outdoor environments for people to discover at any age.
“I think that the benefit for being outside positively effects emotional and mental well-being, and that is something that is important for everyone right now,” she said. “Just having the freedom to allow the learner to direct their own experience outside is hugely beneficial.”
There is also a French version of the site called “S’épanouir en plein air.” More resources will be added to both sites on an ongoing basis.
Photo courtesy of Child and Nature Alliance of Canada.