Learning outdoors

There are many benefits of doing therapy outdoors. Outdoor activities are fun for kids but the benefits are much more than just enjoyment. Your child’s time outside whether with you at home, or with their therapist will provide opportunities for focused activities aimed at developing specific skills that your child needs. If you are having a therapy session with a professional outside like we sometimes do at Talking Matters, the activities will be based on the child's individual assessment and program, just like their indoor therapy sessions. At home, or out in the community, there are many ways to develop your child's skill with the different activities they can engage in. We will help you to see and make best use of these activities in the information below.

Outdoor activities are great for:

Developing large movement based skills. Outdoor activities such as trampolines, bikes, climbing, rolling, crawling, carrying, digging, pushing and pulling build gross motor skills such as balance and coordination, muscle strength and core body strength. Movement based activities also develop some of our senses too, especially our proprioception (awareness of our body in space) and vestibular (balance and movement) senses.

Fine movement based skills. Activities such as digging, pouring, building, painting, drawing and ball play help develop arm and hand strength, fine motor skills, visual perception skills, motor planning and eye hand coordination.

Sensory skills. Outdoor activities such as sand and water play, as well as activities on different surfaces such as bark, gravel and grass can provide sensory input to help children learn to process and regulate their senses.

Developing communication skills. Communication is based on expressing needs and desires. Outdoor activities are highly motivating for many children and so can help develop communication skills such as requesting and choice making.

Language skills. A range of exciting experiences can help children expand their vocabulary. Movement based activities are especially good for learning verbs or action words which are vital for building sentences. Sensory activities are great for developing concepts such as size, texture, number and weight. Movement based activities help children learn prepositions or position concepts such as in, on, under and through. A range of other communication skills such as using grammar, sounds or sentence structures correctly can be built into activities.

Developing regulation. Outdoor activities including movement and sensory activities are great for helping children to be calm, focused and ready for learning.

How can parents support this learning?

Talk with your child’s therapist about your child’s goals and specific ways that you can support your child to further develop these skills.

Provide your child with a range of outdoor activities to support their development such as:

  • visiting playgrounds for developing climbing, swinging, sliding and jumping
  • outdoor play for running, jumping, hopping, skipping
  • ball play for throwing, kicking, bouncing, rolling, skittles or bowling
  • throwing at targets, through hoops, into boxes or baskets
  • put a ball into a stocking, hang it on the clothes line and hit it with a hand or bat
  • outdoor games such as chasey and follow the leader
  • pushing, pulling and carrying with wheelbarrows and buckets of water
  • bike riding and scooters
  • balancing on planks, bricks, tyres, rope or masking tape lines
  • go for a walk, run, skip, hop
  • explore a local park, walk up a hill and roll down
  • play hide and seek
  • go to the beach and walk, run, swim and dig
  • organised activities such as kinder gym, swimming, dancing and sports
  • playing in a sandpit or in the garden, with sand, dirt, water or mud

Play with your child outdoors at home and on outings:

  • watch what they do and encourage them to try new things
  • talk with them about their experiences
  • give them words for the things they can’t express themselves
  • invite some friends to join in the fun
  • take some photos and help your child share these with others

Remember to always supervise your child, keep them safe and protect them from the sun.

The download section of our website has more ideas, information and activities to help your child develop their language and literacy skills. Check our Pinterest page for loads more activities and ideas. Check the Talking Matters website for other useful resources. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so you don’t miss out on what’s happening.

If you are concerned about your child’s development check our “what to expect” handouts and check lists to find out more. Check our website to see how speech pathology or occupational therapy may help if you are still concerned.

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