In our previous articles, we delved into the world of concrete playgrounds. In the first piece, we explored the history of outdoor learning in Scotland and the evolution from green spaces to concrete learning spaces. Our second blog in this series explored the benefits of these spaces as spaces for learning. In this post, we’ll continue our journey through the world of concrete playgrounds by focusing on activities that can turn these urban spaces into outdoor learning hubs, nurturing creativity and growth in children.
Activity 1: Chalk Art Masterpieces
Chalk art is one of the simplest and most engaging activities for kids in a concrete playground. Hand out colourful chunky chalk and encourage children to express their creativity on the concrete canvas. They can draw, write, or create games like hopscotch or mazes. Chalk art allows them to explore their artistic abilities while learning about shapes, colours, and measurements.
Some of my favourite lessons recently have been chalk-based. One group of children had been working on sea animals, and the expansive concrete space in their playground allowed us the opportunity to draw these animals to scale. While they had explored the size of turtles, sharks, whales and more indoors, the sense of awe inspired by the children realising the accurate scale of these animals was fantastic.
I also observed a recent lesson of children drawing around their partner using the wall as the paper and then labelling the internal organs. It encouraged a far richer discussion than simply cutting and sticking paper would have. And, in a small classroom, there was no space to do this indoors.
My love of hopscotch as a tool for learning is well documented; look at this blog here.
When the game is played with the puck working its way up through the grid in order, a simple hopscotch grid offers a rich tool for reinforcing learning across all curricular areas, depending on what you put inside it (and it does not always need to be numbered).
Activity 2: Outdoor Math Classroom
Concrete playgrounds provide an excellent environment for math lessons. You can draw hopscotch grids for counting, multiplication tables, or even geometric shapes. Get the kids moving and learning simultaneously! This interactive approach makes math fun and accessible.
Grids of squares are also great for everything from times tables to place value and even creating bar charts. Information handling is often taught the same way, year after year, in textbooks or through conducting surveys within the class or school. Heading outside, using found items, etc., makes it much more hands-on and memorable.
Activity 3: Alphabet and Word Hunts
For early learners, organise alphabet or word hunts. Scatter letters or simple words around the playground and challenge children to find and arrange them in order. This activity promotes literacy skills and is an exciting alternative to traditional indoor reading.
Older children can also complete an A-Z of the outdoors; finding something for each letter can be hard enough. However, it can also be linked to teaching adjectives (descriptive words) and alliteration (a sequence of words starting with the same letter).
Activity 4: Science Experiments
Concrete playgrounds are perfect for hands-on science experiments. Conduct simple experiments that require minimal equipment, such as creating mini-volcanoes using baking soda and vinegar. Or what about the cola/ mentos rockets? These experiments teach kids about chemical reactions and the scientific method while they have a blast.
Education Scotland has a series of curriculum maps highlighting what can and cannot be taught outside.
Chemical reactions are marked as indoors only, but this is a great way to explore it outside.
Activity 5: Storytelling Corner
Designate a corner of the playground as a storytelling area. Provide blankets or cushions for children to sit on and encourage them to share stories or read aloud. This encourages imagination, language development, and social interaction.
This is good for health, wellbeing, and literacy and also provides a space for break times that children can love.
Activity 6: Nature Observations
Even in an urban environment, nature is present. Observe the different plants, insects, and birds that visit the concrete playground. Encourage children to document their observations in nature journals. This activity connects them to the environment and teaches them about biodiversity. The RSPB School Birdwatch is brilliant for this.
Concrete playgrounds can be transformed into vibrant spaces for outdoor learning. By integrating these activities into your playground design, you can help children develop essential skills in a fun and engaging way. Whether art, math, science, or language, concrete playgrounds offer ample opportunities for children to explore, discover, and learn while enjoying the great outdoors.
Love Outdoor Learning is dedicated to supporting outdoor learning and play in schools and nurseries. We offer membership resources, publications, on-site support, and training programs to empower educators. Visit our website to discover how we can help you create enriching outdoor experiences for your students. Let’s embrace the beauty of outdoor learning together!