In a child’s early years, the way maths is supported should be fun and exciting, allowing children time to explore, actively learn and think critically. Often there is a lot of stigma attached to maths, with parents and early years practitioners having had negative experiences with the subject themselves. Children can often pick up on this, or if activities are too challenging they can begin to find difficulties and become unengaged. This is exactly the reason why incorporating mathematics into early year’s outdoor provision is so important. If activities are presented to children in the right way, they should never even be aware that they are building on their mathematical skills and knowledge. Once the activity has been completed, you may recap or talk about the new skills that the children have learnt.

When bringing maths outdoors, it’s a good idea to start with some observations in order to get children to discover what skills they already have. You will then be able to carefully plan which next challenging but achievable steps to take. You could also choose to incorporate mathematical development into play times. For example, if a child is spontaneously collecting something, you could sensitively join in and talk about the size, shape, colour and number.

Make use of natural resources to promote maths outside; nature has a lot to offer! Children’s mathematical development can be promoted at any age in the early years through the outdoor environment. It’s absolutely fine to choose to add some images to enhance your provision, as this can promote numerical awareness, showing that the environment offers a range of supporting material. For example, you could create stepping stones with numbers displayed on them or you could add maths labels to the mud kitchen or water area.

Top Tip: When numbering items, consider using larger numbers. Why should you start with 1? Why not start with 1001?!

In order to introduce effective activities to promote mathematics in the outdoors you may need to plan resources or make changes to the environment or just allow it to happen naturally during the session. Whatever you decide, make sure the final goal is achievable and follow the children’s interests. Have a look at these ideas below:

  • Counting- You can count anything you find outside, e.g. leaves, sticks, conkers, pebbles, stones, creepy crawlies, flowers, petals, birds.
  • Sorting- Encourage children to sort through a variety of objects that they find outside. For example, sort leaves by shape or colour, or flowers by colour or number of petals.
  • Size & length- Arrange and order sticks or stones by height, size or length.
  • Weight- Place a set of scales in your mud kitchen and weight out ingredients to make mud pies. Ask children which objects are heavier.
  • Measurements- Add different sized plant pots in the sand, mud, water or grass and talk about what is full and what is empty.
  • Numbered Containers- 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 find when you are outdoors. For example, a tree stump is naturally circular and a pebble might be an oval.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in early year’s education, we can help you. Virtually all jobs in working with children require appropriate training and qualifications. We can provide you with advice and training whether you want to start working with them or develop in your current role. We also deliver an introductory course in Forest Schools; great for making the most of your outdoor provision.

For more information, you can get in touch with us via our contact page or by giving us a call on 0300 300 8131. Alternatively, you can view our current vacancies here.