15 Outdoor Literacy Ideas for Preschoolers

We were all out working in the backyard this weekend – moving dirt, digging out lawn, pulling weeds, and discovering lots of minibeasts in the process. Which got me thinking about how many wonderful opportunities there are for rich and engaging literacy outdoors. Here are fifteen simple outdoor literacy ideas for preschoolers – many of which kindergarten age and children in the first grades of school will enjoy too!

Outdoor literacy ideas for preschoolers

15 Outdoor Literacy Ideas for Preschoolers

Outdoor Listening & Speaking Literacy Ideas

1. Lie on the grass to listen and identify any sounds you can hear outdoors – tree leaves rustling in the wind, a dog barking, a plane overhead, water running, a car driving by, etc. Extend this by drawing or writing about what you can hear.

2. Lie back on the grass and look at the clouds. Describe what you can see -what each cloud looks like to you. Invite your child to stand up and make their body into a shape representing the object that they saw in a cloud.

3. Go on a bug hunt to see what minibeasts you can find around your outdoor space. Today we found worms, crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, slaters (roly polies) and a ladybird. There was lots of observation and talking around our finds – questioning, naming and describing. Make your own mini microscope to take an even closer look.

Outdoor literacy ideas for PreK

4. Observe and discuss the seasonal changes that you can see around your space – changes to the ground, the trees and other plants. You can take this learning further by keeping observations for each season in a nature journal – check out our tips for using a nature journal with beginning writers.

5. Involve children in gardening and outdoor chores, talking about what you are doing and why it is important to the outdoor environment. This is a great way to introduce new vocabulary to children.

6. Measure and record the growth of the vegetables in a vegetable garden. Measurement requires children to focus on the task and take a closer look at the items they are measuring. For younger children, use non-standard measurement units, such as, “Let’s count how many hand spans long the pumpkin vine is.” For kindergarten and school aged children, using a tape measure reinforces learning about measurement and number.

Outdoor literacy activities for PreK

Ideas for Reading & Writing Outdoors

7. Hand over your phone or camera and let your child take photographs of their backyard discoveries. Compile the photos into a book of their own. With pre-writers, you scribe the text (as I have demonstrated in this post) whilst early and competent writers can write their own observations.

8. Use our tips to make a nature journal to keep weekly or monthly observations about a regularly visited space.

9. Try a hide and seek game with some alphabet stones – click through for DIY instructions for how to make alphabet stones and nine different literacy learning ideas that work just as well outdoors as in!

10. Children learning to read might like a game of hide and seek word fun!

11. Recycle some of your well loved picture books for outdoor use.

12. Add a chalkboard and chalk to your outdoor space to encourage writing and drawing.

13. Enjoy an outdoor scavenger hunt – be sure to check out our collection of seven outdoor scavenger hunt ideas to use with different ages.

14. Add a child friendly field guide to your bookshelf and use it to guide your outdoor explorations. Check out our suggestions for the Best Field Guides for Kids.

15. Read about nature when you’re reading indoors too. If your child has a specific interest in the great outdoors, encourage that passion by reading about it whenever you normally read together. Take advantage of your local library to vary up your titles, or stick with a few old favorites. We have a number of themed book suggestion posts for nature lovers, including;

For more outdoor learning fun, check out these related ideas;

Garden matching game printable
Nature Scavenger Hunt Printable
Garden Yoga for Kids: Free Printable Poster



  1. Margaret Elvis says:

    What a wonderful weekend you all had and absorbing all that great vitamin D as well which is so important to our well being.

  2. What a wonderful post! The outdoors is a fantastic ‘classroom’ for learning and perfect for literacy activities. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’m fond of outdoor literacy “through osmosis” – in other words what can we do to make the outdoor space be it in a school or backyard a literacy rich environment. So I’m particularly fond of setting up dens and cubbies where children can chat together and socialise on their terms. For other ideas see my blog posts: http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.com/2010/09/reading-books-outdoors.html and http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.com/2010/11/lets-get-writing-outside.html and http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.com/2011/02/creating-writing-friendly-outdoor.html

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  5. What a great inspiration. So many people do not realize how much children can learn right in their own backyard. With a little scaffolding and language children can have be exposed to loads of learning experiences right at home. Thank you for demonstrating that so wonderfully.

  6. I love your article about children learning outdoors! I always encourage my children to get out an play and have adventures! One of the ways I encourage my son who is an extremely active toddler to go outside is to look for insects and animals.Life for Beginners has a great DVD boxset with flash cards,so we watch it then use our flashcards in the garden!It is great as he loves to be outside whilst learning at the same time.Win Win situation for Mums!

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