Promoting Early Literacy Development Outdoors

Posted on April 19, 2021

by Megan Roseberry

As we welcome the warmer weather back into our area, families might be looking for new and fun things to do outside to help our child enhance their early literacy skills! The outdoors is a wonderful teaching environment and children and families can learn and grow while also making fabulous memories together! 


Learning With Nature

Children love exploring things in nature and being outside! Therefore, it is easy to tie-in literacy activities while enjoying such experiences as going on a walk or going camping! For example, a nature walk or scavenger hunt is a great way to introduce children to vocabulary words. These activities are also wonderful for helping children understand and practice using descriptive language. When you ask your child to look for a yellow flower or you point out a tree and mention to them that the bark is “rough,” you are providing them with examples of descriptive language. This will help them immensely when they are asked to write stories in school!


Art, Literacy, and Nature

Growing Book By Book is full of ideas on how to incorporate literacy learning into outdoor play. Some of the activities that I would like to highlight from this website include art. If you have a digital camera at home, see if you can find and take pictures of the letters of the alphabet as they appear in nature! Challenge your child (and yourself) to spot the letter “A” in a cloud or the letter “Y” made by tree branches! Take pictures of these letters and make a collage with the pictures! Now, you have a unique way to practice the letters while at home and you also have a fun, decorative art piece!

The website Growing Book By Book also encourages using large paint brushes with water or sidewalk chalk to practice “painting” or writing letters and words outside! You can use these activities to help your child practice spelling their name and other familiar words. Using a paintbrush or chalk also allows your child to develop their fine motor muscles and skills in their fingers and hands. Encourage your child to make big letters so that they are crossing the midline, or the middle of their bodies. Giving your child opportunities to cross the midline of their bodies is an essential component of their development! 


Storytime In The Outdoors

One of the best ways of supporting your child’s early literacy development is by reading to them. Storytime does not have to be only an indoor activity! Take your book reading time outside! Enjoy the sunshine and breath the fresh air as you and your child read your favorite books together. Growing Book By Book takes this a bit further by mentioning how being outside also gives you the opportunity to reenact some of the scenes from a story. Acting out a scene from a book has many benefits. For instance, it helps your child practice the art of storytelling and understanding story structures. Also, acting out a story requires your child to recall what happened while you were reading. This is a fantastic way to check their comprehension, or what they understood, from what you just read together! Another added bonus? Acting out a scene from a story gets your child up and moving! 

You can also visit one of the La Porte County Public Library location’s outdoor spaces to incorporate reading and the outdoors. Fish Lake, Rolling Prairie, Union Mills, Kingsford Heights, and Hanna branches each have designated outdoor educational spaces that can promote early literacy development in unique and fun ways! For example, Hanna is home to a storywalk that includes a short walking path with podiums that house pages from a children’s book. The whole path and all the podiums make up a complete book! These books are changed out regularly, so feel free to visit frequently! In addition, Union Mills has outdoor instruments with which children can make music. Music is an integral part of early literacy and experience with music can help prepare children for reading! 


Physical Activity And Literacy Development 

We all know how important physical activity is for children. We want them to be healthy and active. Combining physical activity and early literacy learning is easy! As mentioned in the website Growing Book By Book, jump rope is an activity that merges physical movement with literacy learning. The rhymes and chants that come with jumping rope include rhyming words and require memorization. Having a strong foundation in rhyming words is a great building block for early literacy in children. 

PJ Library hosts another collection of ideas to incorporate being outdoors with literacy development. Their list includes a couple activities that also require physical activity. The one I would like to mention specifically is called Alphabet Pounce. In this activity, children are jumping on a trampoline that has letters written on it with chalk. You can ask your child to jump to letters that spell out a particular word, or, if your child is not ready for words just yet, have them bounce to letters of the alphabet!


Give your child time to explore and enjoy the outdoors! The outside world is home to numerous learning opportunities and teachable moments that will help children of all ages improve their reading and writing skills! See what you can learn and experience together!


Check out these resources at the library:

Anna Banana: 101 Jump-Rope Rhymes by Joana Cole

Woodswalk: Peepers, Porcupines, & Exploding Puffballs! What You’ll See, Hear, & Smell When Exploring The Woods by Henry Warren Art

Let’s Play Outdoors! Exploring Nature For Children by Carla McRae                                   


Megan Roseberry

Megan Roseberry

Megan, Community Engagement Librarian, Unicorn Fanatic, The Most Sparkly Librarian – any of these titles will do. When not bringing the Van Halen to early literacy classes or spreading the joy of reading to youngsters throughout the community, one can find her enjoying copious amounts of carbohydrates, binge-watching random television shows and movies, pretending to be a professional photographer, dancing around and singing when no one is watching (okay, maybe when people are watching, too), and thoroughly enjoying life with a never-ending smile!
Translate »