Carolina Biological OSE – April 2024


Forums / Early Childhood / Environmental Learning center

Early Childhood

Environmental Learning center

Author Post
Jennifer Bacon Jennifer Bacon 410 Points

Hi All,

We are working on ways to transform out play yards at our child care center into an outdoor environmental learning environment.some cool tips and ideas that we can implent? Thanks so much! ( Our outdoor play areas are separated for ages 1-5. With 1 year olds on their own, two years olds on their own, and 3-5 year olds share a big one)


Melissa Biddinger Melissa Biddinger 435 Points

Hi Jennifer,

I am a preservice teacher and I served an internship at a childcare center last semester.  This facility strongly supported nature-play where the children could explore their natural surroundings in a variety of ways.  The children had access to a sand-play area where they could use funnels, sand toys, and shovels to manipulate the sand.  There were also rock and log structures the children could climb on and small gardens that the children helped grow and tend.  These gardens allowed the children to learn about pollinators and agriculture.  In addtion, there were small bushes and trees that had foliage the students could watch as they changed over the course of the seasons as well as bird houses for the children to observe different species of birds.  The area contained woodchips and grass as well, which provided a safe natural surface for students to walk and play on.  The area also had wind chimes and wind socks, which helped teach children how wind influences objects.  Furthermore, I visited the Irvine Nature Center located in Maryland that has a wonderful outdoor classroom.  This area included an outside theater for students to watch and put on plays, a wood canoe, small foot trails that students could explore, an outdoor kitchen where they could make “nature-pies,” and a miniature water wheel for students to explore.  Nature play areas are a wonderful way for children to learn about their environment in informal ways.  As they engage in play, they build their vocabulary, enhance their understanding of certain science topics, such as plants, and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings. 

Here is a website that you may find helpful:  It includes some information about nature-play areas, such as their benefits to children’s health as well as some of the features that can be included in a nature-play area.       


Valerie Green Valerie Green 480 Points


I have seen a wonderful natural playground in action and it seems like maybe that would be a good idea for what you are looking for. It used non toxic plants (like herb gardens) for borders that the children could explore, natural logs for sitting/exploring/climbing areas, had a fine grain sand pit the children could dig in as well as dirt that made glorious mud to dig in, and natural hills with slides built into them so the children climbed the hill to slide instead of steps. This playground was amazing! You could also maybe google nature based play to grab some ideas.

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