Why take mathematics outdoors in the early years?
Mathematics in the early years should be a fun and exciting time where children can explore, actively learn and critically think. There is often a lot of stigma attached to maths with parents and early years practitioners often having negative experiences with mathematics themselves. Children can often pick up on this or if activities are too challenging find mathematics difficult and become unengaged from mathematics. This is why incorporating mathematics into early years outdoor provision is so important. If activities are presented to children in the right way they should not even be aware that they are building up mathematical skills and knowledge. You may after the activity has completed recap and talk to the children about what new skills they have learnt.
Before completing mathematics outdoors with your children start with completing some observations to discover what skills the children already have and then plan careful next steps which are challenging yet achievable. You may also choose to incorporate mathematical development into their free play outdoors for example when spontaneously collecting leaves or sticks you can sensitively join in talking about size, shape, colour and number. Mathematics outdoors can be promoted through using natural resources and should not require any resources from indoors as nature has enough to offer and can be as equally useful and engaging. Children’s mathematical development can be promoted at any age in the early years through the outdoors environment. You may choose to add some images to your outdoor provision which promote mathematical development also so that the environment offers a range of supporting material. For example you may choose to create stepping stones with numbers displayed on them or add mathematical labels to the mud kitchen or water area. The early years environment is just as important as the practitioner and the EYFS clearly displays this. Ofsted are also very keen to see great outdoor provision so being able to evidence you support all development outdoors including mathematics is important to achieving high Ofsted ratings.
Examples of mathematical activities using the outdoors environment
In order to plan or introduce effective activities to promote mathematics in the outdoors you may need to plan resources, make changes to the environment or allow it to happen during free play. Either way make sure the goals you are setting for the children are achievable and follow their interests. Have a look at these ideas below:
- Counting – You can count anything you find outside, leaves, sticks, conkers, pebbles, stones, creepy crawlies, flowers, petals, birds.
- Sorting – Encourage children to sort a variety of objects that can be found outside such as sort leaves by shape or colour, or flowers by colour or number of petals
- Size and length – arrange and order sticks or stones by height, size or length
- Weight – Place a set of scales in your mud kitchen and weigh out ingredients to make mud pies, which stone is heavier?
- Measurements – Add different sized plant pots to fill and empty containers in the sand, mud, water, grass, whatever is available in your outdoor area. Talk about full and empty.
- Make numbered containers or baskets – Children can carry these around the outdoor area and fill them with the correct number of items.
- Shapes – Talk about the natural shapes you can see when you are outdoors for example the circular tree stump or the oval pebble
You may find that the children enjoy learning with these natural resources more and decide to take some inside for your indoor maths area! Have a look at our Pinterest board for some more ideas on maths in the outdoors.