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CREATING OUTDOOR SPACES THAT SUPPORT LEARNING: IDEAS FROM A MONTESSORI-INSPIRED FARM SCHOOL TEACHER

Have you ever thought of what you could do to make your backyard a more inviting space for play and learning for your child?


Homeschool girl learning

Many people have ample learning experiences just waiting to be unlocked for their children, but just don’t know what kind of spaces to provide.


These are some of my favorite outdoor learning spaces, which I’ve used both at home and at my Montessori-inspired Farm School for ages 3-9. All of these learning spaces work well, even if you have just a small area to work with. Never underestimate the potential of even the smallest of outdoor spaces!


RAMPS

Homeschool kids playing and learning Ramps

Fencing boards make great lightweight ramps for children to move around and adjust with their play.


We’ve used plain scrap wood and also painted some to look like streets since this is an activity often paired with cars. Let children experiment with different heights and angles and how this affects the speed of the item going downward. A verbal explanation from an adult isn’t typically needed. Kids learn all they need to know simply from the sensorial experience of testing it out themselves! You can prop ramps against stumps, fences, hills, swing sets, or trees.


DIRT PIT

Homeschool Kid playing with Dirt Pit

For safety reasons, I don’t allow my students to dig holes just anywhere. Farm animals or running children could easily trip and fall due to unexpected holes, so we focus the digging in specific areas.


This is simply an enclosed wooden area (like a short raised garden bed) filled with soil. We keep this area stocked with a few different-sized shovels, pots, and buckets for dumping, digging, dirt castle building and all!


ROCK PIT

Homeschool Kid playing Rock Pit

This space is enclosed with wooden timbers and filled with small pebbles and smooth pond rocks.


Rocks give a different sensory input than dirt, and some children prefer this to any other space!


We keep shovels, dump trucks, and large buckets nearby for filling and dumping.


MUD KITCHEN

Homeschool Kid playing with Mud Kitchen

By far, this is my favorite and most used outdoor area in my outdoor classroom space!


Children bring mud, water, leaves, feathers, and all the nature things here for mixing and experimentation. We keep old kitchen utensils (whisks, tongs, spoons) and bowls or pans here for the children to use. It’s a great outlet for imaginative play, which doesn’t always revolve around food. You can use several things to make a raised mud kitchen space if you’re unable to build one. Wooden benches turned over apple crates, and cardboard boxes are great alternatives!


OUTDOOR EASEL

Homeschool Kids doing Outdoor Easel

I’ve used both a premade easel and an outdoor wooden board painted with chalkboard paint. Both work well; it just depends on the size of your space.


Chalkboard easels are a great outlet for chalk art, but you can also use paintbrushes and water as an alternative. It makes a nice, darker streak of color when painting on a chalkboard with water, and it will naturally dry and evaporate in a few minutes, creating a blank canvas all over again!


EMPTY SPACE!


Space to run, explore, turn over sticks, throw leaves, search for wildlife, you name it! Never underestimate the beauty of an empty outdoor space.


If you don’t have this, go find it occasionally in a local park, nature preserve, hiking trails, gardens, arboretums, or farms. Walk and explore with no agenda, and see what your child comes up with!


For empty spaces, I love to have nature observation items on hand, like field guides of local animal or plant species, magnifying glasses, bug catchers, and a nature or art journal if creativity strikes!


Nicole

 

ABOUT NICOLE from MONTESSORI FOR MOMS

I'm Nicole, the creator behind Montessori for Moms. As a Montessori Farm School teacher, I get to enjoy teaching an in-depth and hands on nature curriculum while also following the Montessori method. I create printables to support our studies in the classroom, and also enjoy sharing them with people like YOU!