There are many ways to encourage a love of reading and writing from an early age by participating in Literacy activities outside. We have picked 10 outdoor literacy activities for kids to get you started.
We all benefit from fresh air and time outdoors, not just our kids. Spending time outdoors is good for our mental and physical health and children’s learning. You can learn about the alphabet, writing, phonological awareness, and more with these outdoor literacy activities for kids.
1. Read outside
Our first activity is so simple! Grab a few books and head outside with a blanket and a picnic. Changing something as simple as your surroundings will completely transform you and your children’s reading experience. You could even create your own particular outdoor reading area. Children can help you make these and decorate them so they become an exciting place they will enjoy spending time in.
We have written about den kits and how to make your own den here with a simple step-by-step guide. Encourage children to take books outside and read outdoors.
2. Make letters from nature
Let’s face it: kids love to pick things up! They will naturally pick things up they are drawn to. For early years, harness this and use the items they find, like sticks, flower petals, acorns, pine cones, leaves, etc., to make letter shapes. Not only will they be engaging with nature but learning at the same time. Using sand at the beach is another excellent way to practice letter writing.
Chalk is perfect for practising writing. Keep some chalk in a tightly sealed box, and collect a variety of sizes and colours ready for outdoor learning. It can be used on pavements, walls, fences, and chalkboards; best of all, it will wash away with water or in the next rain.
3. Make nature journals
Take out notepaper, buy or make your journal. Encourage children to take them out with them on your adventures together. Nature journals usually focus on things children have discovered and sketches, but you can include any writing your kids want to include about their outdoor adventures.
We love using our nature journal to write poetry or prose whilst outdoors. You could jot down a few ‘story prompts’ to get children started whilst outdoors.
Here are a few of our own to get you started;
- I am relaxing on the beach when suddenly I hear…
- My favourite thing to do in the forest is…
- I’m hiding behind a tree, and I am scared of…
- I love being outside in nature because…
- I’m walking through the woods, and I can smell…
4. Try our ABC scavenger hunt
Go on an ABC scavenger hunt and search for things that begin with each alphabet letter through the woods!
You could do this and let kids think of things that begin with each letter or print out and follow our own free ABC Scavenger hunt. Download it here.
5. Play word hide and seek
Write, paint, print words and hide them around your garden or green space. Now, you are ready to seek them out! Have someone call out a word or hold up a picture of the word and then try to find the word hidden in the garden. This is a great way to get children to recognise words and letters; they will learn to read while having fun.
6. Act out a story
This activity is one of our favourites; we are big Julia Donaldson fans and love to go on Gruffalo hunts! There are hundreds of adventurous books for kids that you can act out on your next adventure. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and We’re Going on a Lion Hunt by David Axtell are two repetitive tales that lend themselves perfectly to some action movements outside. Swish through the grass, splash through the water, squish through mud, and tiptoe through a cave, all while searching for a bear or lion. You could even make up your own story in your nature journal and act that out.
7. Read about the outdoors…indoors!
If you have adventurous kids who love the outdoors, encourage that passion, whatever the time of year or weather and read about it inside, too. Use the internet to research and answer tricky questions, or use the local library.
8. Make a gardening journal
A gardening journal is a great way to incorporate literacy outside, especially for children who love gardening. These are a great way to record what you have planted and how well they are growing. You could make sketches and stick on photos of the thing in the garden, and at the end of the growing year, you’ll have a beautiful record of all the growing, fun and learning that happened in your garden!
If you don’t have access to a garden, this activity can be done indoors with flowers, fruits, vegetables or herbs you can grow on the window ledge. These children’s seed growing kits are a great way to get started.
9. Make a story map
The easiest way I find to do this activity is to first draw a fundamental layout of your garden in the style of a treasure map. Then, on the map, sketch the places where you’ve hidden clues or treasures. You could use toys as props to add obstacles or challenges. For example, place a dinosaur toy somewhere, then draw a dinosaur on the map, put the toy in that area and call that area, for example, Dinosaur Valley.
Finally, ask your child to go and find the treasure using the map you created. Your child can pretend to go on a real adventure using imaginative play and reading.
10. Create pretty flower press poems
We love this activity, and the results can be used to decorate your home or be given out as thoughtful gifts.
First, collect flowers from your own garden or whilst out on a walk. If you want to save them, you can preserve them in the fridge for a day or two until you’re ready to press them. When you’re ready, grab a weighty book, some parchment paper and your flowers. Place the flowers on the parchment paper with the flower facing down in the middle of the heavy book. Next, put some parchment paper on the flower and close the book, sealing them in the middle. Leave your flowers in your book for roughly one week, then open your book and remove your parchment paper from the pressed flowers! You can use these to inspire poetry, decorate your poems, and make lovely cards or decorations.
Children are naturally curious and will ask you hundreds of questions. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know the answer, and then venture off to the library or online to learn more. If your children are particularly interested in something, adapt to explore that, then encourage local trips or further learning with books and online resources.
We hope you have enjoyed reading our ten outdoor literacy activities for kids; let us know if you have tried any of these in the comments.