Making the Most of Outdoor Time

It’s time for your class to travel outside. Depending on your program requirements this can be 30 minutes to 60 minutes or more. So now what? You can maximize outdoor play by moving learning centers outdoors, opening new possibilities for stimulating children’s creativity, self-discovery, and imagination. Providing the same engagement outside as inside allows your children to integrate loud and active activities outside. Creating a routine outside allows you to expand and extend what is happening in the classroom. Here are some ways of making the most of outdoor time.

READ: Creating Amazing Outdoor Play Areas

Creating Outdoor Centers

When it comes to outdoor fun, we can bring the same structure of the classroom outside. This can be science, dramatic play, sensory, art, and block play. Expanding your outside play opportunities allows for limitless imagination. When thinking about outdoor play, establishing outdoor centers allows your outdoor learning to expand. You can use nature in your outdoor centers such as leaves, sticks, rocks, mud, sand, and water. These all provide opportunities for children to explore their environment through natural items. Adding in exploration tools such as magnifying glasses, binoculars, jars, tweezers, and rulers helps children connect learning to nature and build. Using block play outdoors allows children to build with the sky as their limit. Taller structures build expansion of thoughts and broaden imagination. Use your own imagination to expand children’s learning from the classroom to outdoor play. 

READ: Loud & Active Centers

Planning Outdoor Routines

Now that we have expanded our thoughts about our outdoor learning, it’s time to plan for our routines. Think about how you could do indoor activities outdoors. Just like the classroom, you can begin your outdoor play with a meeting time. Children can sit on the ground, on a piece of carpet, or even an outdoor seat like a small log. During this time, children can plan their own outdoor play. Using popsicle sticks as outdoor center markers allows children to choose which outdoor center, they are interested in. Establishing how many children are allowed in each outdoor play area allows you to create an outdoor learning environment with an established routine. Once a routine is set, children will self-regulate the outdoor play area. 

Read: Continuing Themes and Curriculum Outside

Kathy Banks

Kathy Banks, Educator Support Specialist for Experience Early Learning, has 35 years of early childhood education experience. She has held various positions, including teacher, director, multi-site director, Head Start director, CCR&R, and QRIS Director. She currently adjuncts at several colleges and universities and continues to support and inspire educators through training and practical strategies. Kathy is working on her dissertation to complete her Ed.D. in Early Childhood Education. Kathy is also a nationally certified Family and Consumer Science Developmental Educator. Her experience and education make her a scholarly expert in child development and the realities and challenges of teaching and directing every day. 


Byrons, A. (2021). Outside time and beyond: How to include outdoor learning and play in your daily classroom or family child care routine. Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center. 

Krull, S. (2018). Outdoor classroom learning centers- The sky’s the limit! Sharin with Sharon.