Tips for Outdoor Learning in Spring: Interview with Dr. Beverlie Dietze

Quality Classrooms had the opportunity to interview Dr. Beverlie Dietze, for her input on playing outdoors in Spring, as well as her unique view on outdoor learning. You can read this blog and watch the interview for more interesting discussions. Quality Classrooms will also have a webinar with Beverlie soon in May. Stay tuned for more updates!

Toai (Quality Classrooms): 

Hello, everyone! I am Toai, the new host of the Quality Classrooms talk show. Well, I’m not officially a host yet, but if I do well in this interview, I will soon have my own talk show! My guest today is Dr. Beverlie Dietze. She is a researcher, author and educator who’s specialized in outdoor play. Today we’ll talk about why Spring is a great time to get outside and do some outdoor learning activities! For the new listeners, can you please introduce yourself? 


Sure, and thank you so much for this opportunity. I am Beverly Dietze, a researcher, and more importantly, I’m passionate about supporting educators, families, and children to engage in many experiences that will follow their sense of curiosity, and wonderment outdoors. So that’s my whole focus – how can we support advancing new ways of experimentation and that sense of wonderment outdoors. 

Learn more about Dr. Beverlie Dietze and her work here 



As we know, Spring is here! The days are longer, warmer, the snow is melting, the grass is growing. The environment just looks so inviting, like it’s asking us to come outside and play. This is great because in the winter, the cold, extreme weather usually discourages us from going outside. From your experience, what are the benefits of outdoor learning after a season change? 


It is important to know that children require opportunities to play in all seasons, so we can support children in understanding new information about the environment. Example: To experience the sense of snow on their cheeks; the raindrops falling; the flowers,… Children can see the puddle and run through that puddle, make it splash. Then, they can learn what kind of body movement is required to get the big splashes versus smaller splashes, and the ripple effect.  

So, when we think about Spring in particular, this is the time when you want to pause and ask the children to look at the sky. What do they see? How is the sun different from what it may have been in the winter? What do they see on the trees? What do they smell? What do they hear? Are they beginning to see those bugs come and go? And if so, what are those bugs? 

This is the time when children should see a renewal in life. They may see plants that are coming, they may see those fresh flowers that are coming to people’s gardens. It really is a time to support the children in advancing their interests, their desire, and their abilities to draw upon previous information that they know of seasons and bring in new information. When I think about children and getting them outdoors, this is the time when you want to have magnifying glasses always in your pockets so children can take them out and just imagine what they see. It is when you want children to touch and feel the grass or the bushes to engage in that piece, when you want to support children in skipping and engage in body movements. Spring is a time when you really want to support children in being able to move and to experience the cold because at times it’s still going to be cold! They may still find ice on the paddles. 


Here in Winnipeg, for sure you can experience the cold! 

A baby enjoying Spring in Winnipeg.



I’ve read your blogs and I’m very impressed by the recommendations for activities for outdoor play you came up with. You list the benefits of the activities, you back up with scientific sources, citations, and sometimes even examples from your own experience. Do you have any recommendations for activities to do in spring? 


When we think about children in play, we want to look at their space and place. As adults, our role is to offer children the materials that will provoke their thinking. So as opposed to suggesting activities, what we really want to do is to work with the children to see what they’re interested in, and then support the children in pursuing that. When we think of children, and the first time they see a worm, what are they going to do? They will ask “Where are the digging materials? I need something to dig, I need to see if I can find more worms.” So, they find the worms and then they’ll wonder again “What am I going to do with these worms? Ah, I really want to watch these worms!” So that’s when you have the worm containers. That’s when you have the books that will support the children in thinking about those pieces. When you think about children and tricycles, we’re not going to say “Today, let’s go on your tricycles”.  You’re going to put the tricycles in some very interesting spaces, and then see what the children do with them.  

For me, it’s not about “Here are the activities that we will do”, but rather how can we be a facilitator of opportunity that will really trigger that sense of curiosity with the children. Therefore, it’s the support materials that we put nearby that will lead children to put this piece of information together with this, and then they move into a process that we call ideation – “Oh, I see this, I could do this with this”. And then you can see that the play will go on in very unique and innovative ways. 


We usually think of “what activities to do in this kind of season”. But from your answer, I learn that…just let children go outside! And then whenever they like something, we will be there to support them in exploring that further. And of course, having the necessary materials nearby will facilitate their imagination, and the inspiration to let them go and do more activities. Great answer!  

Instead of thinking “what activities”, we should consider “how can we inspire them?”



With the advancement of technology, children have more options to entertain themselves. They don’t even need to go outside to find entertainment. Today, outdoor learning has to compete against video games, movies, and other forms of entertainment. How do you encourage children to go outside and learn? 


The key is to have role models for the children, and with the children. If I am an adult, and I want my children to really embrace the outdoor environment, I have to illustrate how important that is to me, I have to talk about the beauty of the season with the children. I want to build that sense of wonder, so that the children do want to go out. It starts with the adults in the children’s lives. 

 If you have children that are really connected to that technology, then as an adult, we have to say, how can we start to support the child in building that love for outdoor play and at the same time, have the opportunity to use that technology? If we have little munchkins – as I like to call them with a term of endearment, if we have them hooked on technology, get them out to find things! Geocaching is a very important way in which we can get children to use their technology and at the same time, tromping through the woods, going from one street to another in a neighborhood to try and find those items. If children have the ability to use camera, or whatever tools they can to document what they are seeing, have the children take those tools outside and say, “We’re going to find five trees that have different bark on them!” And then we’re going to take the photos so that we remember and then we can come back and talk about that. That’s how we trigger children to actually redefine how they can connect outdoors. Remember, we all have a very important role in supporting the children in building that love of outdoors, from an environmental stewardship perspective, from a climate change perspective, on from the notion of how we are going to build sustainable opportunities within the environments in which we live. We take it one step at a time. Again, we try to figure out what the children are interested in. And then how can we connect that with the outdoors?  


So instead of fighting technology for the children’s attention, like “Okay, you shouldn’t be on your phone anymore, go outside and play”, your solution is that we should try to incorporate technology (or whatever children are into) with outdoor play. It will inspire children to go outside and expand more. Then they’ll fall in love with the outdoor environment. 


Just to expand on that. So, we’re always trying to trigger children’s curiosity, right? Going back to the example that I had of the trees, if I knew which five trees, I was going to have the children actually take photos off, I would also have baskets of intriguing materials there. So that they’ll take the photos, but they also look at the baskets to see what is there. So, again, you’re trying to enhance or entice them to see the world from multiple lenses, and from the perspective of how they may deviate from that technology to really embrace that open ended opportunity. 

More on the importance of language in outdoor learning in the interview

Trigger children’s curiosity!



What are some characteristics of the Spring weather and environment that educators can utilize to give children a great outdoor learning experience?  


There are just so many! The puddles, of course. The new sticks that children find because during the winter, that’s mother nature’s way of trimming the trees. There is the sense of mud. And then there are pinecones. They provide opportunities to bring math and science into the outdoor space.  

When we think about Spring, it is looking, feeling the rain and the wind. Sometimes we’ll think “Oh, it’s too windy for the children.” Now, we want the children to feel, and think about that. I often provide children with umbrellas. I look at umbrellas as a scientific marvel for children, not only because children have to put them up and down and utilize the mechanism to get them to stand out, but also the imaginary play that occurs with an umbrella. The moment that they have umbrellas outdoors and it’s raining, then music comes to their mind! Tip, tap, top, you know, whatever is happening to the umbrella. It’s that sense of I can be Mary Poppins outdoors on a windy day. Right?  

So just looking at what is beneficial in your environment and then not stopping the children – that’s the key piece. Yes, it might be a little chilly for us as adults. Maybe we don’t want to go out.  “Is the wind going to cause our hair to blow all over?”. However, we want the children to experience that. We want them to connect with all aspects of the weather conditions. Let them have their snack outdoors with the sun shining on their face, so they can see and feel the heat of the sun. There isn’t one particular thing that I can identify. It’s to observe, and then act upon whatever those gifts of nature are within the local community. 

Let children connect with all aspects of the environment.



What are some must-have outdoor toys?  For example, tricycles,…


Sure, tricycles are important. Children want to be carrying things. So, they need buckets. They need shovels, because we want them to have instruments that they can engage in the mud on. They need things to cart items from one spot to another. I also believe that there should be wagons in space. I always like to put moving dollies, so that children can utilize those items, or that piece of apparatus to move one thing to another. I want children to have opportunities to have lots of wood. So certainly, put the blocks into the space. When you have wood, you will also think about planks, or pieces of plywood so that children can embrace those pieces. Where is it that the children can have that creative moment? Whether it’s in our diesel, or on paper, or on a piece of plywood, where are those opportunities? 

 Mirrors are absolutely vital during the Spring, because they’re the opportunity to reflect. It’s when we put mirrors near trees that are just starting to bud and then the children are engaged in utilizing that as an experience of science and wonderment. It helps them to solidify what the shadow is and how shadows are created. So, we also want to offer unique, innovative materials that are going to advance children’s sense of “I wonder if” “I wonder what happens”. 

We sometimes forget the importance of having baskets of books outside. When we think about what we like to do as adults, it can be very joyful to take a book outside, look at it and experience it. Well, that would be very similar to children! I always like to put great big boots outside that children can slip in. If you can get men’s large boots and have those outside, then it adds a new dimension. Children put their feet in and then when they’re trying to move, we’re advancing their physical activity. Certainly, there should be items for them to climb on. Whatever those items are, whether it’s a structured piece of play apparatus, or tree stumps that they can move, they need to be able to make decisions about moving their bodies in unique ways.  

When I think about outdoor play and Spring, I would also look at what tools to have. If there are bushes in the play space, you can begin to support children in understanding the importance of pruning in the Spring and bring that experience to the children. So, we want to have gardening materials. Do you have gloves? And do you know those kinds of tools so that they can embrace their environment that way as well? 


It’s more about looking at the environment and see “With this environment, what tools can I put that will encourage children’s sense of exploration, and curiosity?” Understanding the materials helps too – today I learned about the importance of books in outdoor play! 

Adventure time!



From your experience working with different childcare, and you see how they operate outdoor play, do you have any suggestions on how to organize great outdoor plays? 


Well, I think that when we examine outdoor learning, it has to start with the adults. You have to develop that sense of passion. That is the key piece to this, particularly adults that are working in early learning and childcare programs, because they are incredible influencers of the experiences that children engage. Another point is to understand that children need elements that are going to trigger their curiosity. So, it can’t be the same space with the same materials on a daily basis, you want to add some unique pieces of materials, and you want to put those materials in places that you normally wouldn’t think children would look for. What happens when you put paper around the trunk of the tree, and then have children engage in an art experience there? It’s very different from them working on a flat by easel. You want to be looking at the attributes of the space, and then how you can add new opportunities there.  

Where is it that children can have that dramatic play experience? Dramatic play is more than a housekeeping center. It should expand into all kinds of opportunities for children to use their imagination, because that imaginary play then influences their language and their literacy skills later. So, we really need to do some brainstorming and say, “what do we want the children to experience?”. If this is what we want the children to experience, then what are the gaps in our current practice? And then how might we be able to facilitate new ways of thinking and doing to provide new options for the children? 


Great. And with that, I conclude our interview today! Thank you, Beverlie, for some great points. We’ve learned so much about the importance of role models, and how we inspire children to fall in love with outdoor play. Thank you for your time, and for the listener, have a great Spring ahead! 

We had a great time talking! I missed the opportunity to say: “It’s time to SPRING outside for some outdoor play”, so here is another Spring joke: 

How excited was the gardener about Spring? So excited he wet his plants! 

Diversity and Equality: From the Classroom to the World 

Diversity and Equality are becoming increasingly important topics in current times and will continue to be the main theme in our children’s development. Understanding these topics helps the kids to admire the difference in individuals, treat everyone with respect, and build the necessary skill to communicate/work with different people in the future.

Diversity is the differences between humans and what make us unique. It includes physical characteristics such as ethnicity, gender identity, disability, physical or mental ability, and intangible values such as class, culture, religious beliefs, language, and many more. Teaching children to recognize and respect individual differences is the cornerstone to promote diversity.  

Equality is believing in the right of everyone to have equal treatment, and access to the same resources and opportunities. Inclusion is the practice that embraces both the concept of diversity and equality, by making sure that everyone is treated fairly and being respected regardless of their differences. An inclusive classroom is where students can feel a sense of belonging – knowing that they are loved for who they are. 

 Teaching children about diversity can start with letting kids know/explore unfamiliar cultures. Here are a few fun activities that children can both play/learn about the world around us: 

I. Holiday – Every day!  

  • Take the nice shoes out. Put on your best outfit. Because it is a holiday today! We recommend researching, choosing, and enjoying festivals that represent the cultures of the world. Examples: Chinese New Year, Diwali, and Hanukkah. Celebrating the holidays from your students’ cultures is also an effective way to make them feel involved and proud of their roots.
  • Dressing in traditional clothes of the culture chosen. Encouraging children to do the same on their holiday. Learning about the selected culture’s traditional clothing. Around the world figures are the writer’s favorite. They are chunky, soft, friendly-looking figures that are dressed in beautiful cultural outfits. They are great for creative play and are wonderful tools to let children know about the details of diverse cultural outfits. 
  • Serving food/snacks or letting children play with food set from the culture chosen. What is a party without food? Introducing kids to the foods of the world is a fantastic way for them to learn about different cultures, and food is just always a great theme. The Sushi Set (See picture below!) includes several types of sushi, and a wooden board so children can serve sushi to others. An excellent introduction to the famous dish of Japan. 
  • Making crafts of different objects that represent the chosen culture. The Tepee Craft Kit is a great tool to help educate children about the history of Indigenous people.  

II. Fun, spontaneous ideas.

  • These fun activities can be done anytime and will help children to develop empathy, and respect for other people. 
  • Play music from different countries: Select children’s songs, or famous songs with relaxing/positive messages from different countries. The songs can be played in the background while students work or have fun. Encourage them to take part in the playlist and put in their own recommendations! Introduce children to different musical instruments of the world. Multicultural Rhythm Set includes musical instrument toys from various South American countries, and we are sure that it will keep the atmosphere always festive! 
  • Arts of the world: Art is a fascinating topic and always will be. Explore dances, paintings, literature, and other forms of art around the world.  
  • Use the bulletin board: decorate the bulletin board with information about a distinct culture: images of locations, simple words of the natives, food pictures, events, and locations on the map. Change the bulletin board monthly to a different culture for more variation. Crayola Holiday Series is a great fit for these activities as they have colours that relate to symbols, and customs of the holidays around the world such as Chinese New Year, Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, Diwali, Halloween, … Let the young ones have the joy of decorating the bulletin board! 
  • Play Trivia: After learning about different countries, it is time to test students’ knowledge. The key to every trivia is fun, so make sure to hand out prizes for correct answers to increase friendly competition! Around the world paper collection is a complete set of gorgeous papers that include 48 unique patterns in African, Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Australian Aboriginal cultures. A compelling prize for students who like crafting, decorating, or collecting cultural pieces. 
  • Games from around the world: Research and introduce children to international games, from board games to outdoor activities. 

III. Equality – Start from the classroom first. 

  • Teaching children about Equality from an early age is a wonderful way to help them build valuable traits such as empathy, love, understanding, and consideration for other people.
  • Pronounce & remember classmates’ names: Try to encourage students to practice saying and remembering their classmates’ names correctly. This activity will help children build relationships and make the classroom environment more inclusive. 
  • Increase awareness about other countries’ living standards: Using the Explorer Globe to teach children about world problems. Let one volunteer point to any country in the world and spend time learning about that country’s living standards. Do people have access to school? Do they have access to food, and clean water?
  • Let children know about organizations that are dedicated to bringing equal opportunities to everyone such as World Education – a non-profit organization that improves people’s lives through education, social and economic development. This is a great introduction for children to social studies – the study of people in relation to each other and to the world in which they live.
  • Depending on the ages of the children, explain to them the idea that not everyone is equal in the world, and each of us can contribute to a better society by treating everyone around us equally. 
  • Bring your culture to the classroom: Give students an assignment to bring an item/items that represent their culture to the classroom. Then have them present in front of the class about the item and why it is important to the chosen culture. If students cannot bring an item, have them make a presentation about what they are most proud of in their culture. It can be anything: arts, food, traditions, … 
  • Guest speaker: Invite people from other cultures to come to the classrooms and share their experiences. Children will be fascinated by the stories, the traditional outfits, the difference in customs, and of course, the languages. Kids will also learn about different living situations, and sometimes even the feeling of the individual when being discriminated against. It will be an unforgettable and thrilling experience for them! 

IV. Using tools/objects that promote inclusion in daily learning. 

  • Diversity and Equality do not need to be reminded of or taught daily. We recommend using products that represent different races in daily teachings to let the idea implement seamlessly. 
  • Playtime can also be both educational and fun! We have a range of dolls from different races to choose from. Female Doll, Indigenous is a good option to let children play with and let them get used to different races of people. Possible Family is also our line of products that include sets of family figures from various races that enable several types of imaginative scenario play. 
  • While teaching children about emotions and feelings, we recommend using Children’s faces from around the world puzzle. It includes award-winning photos that depict children from different races showing various emotions. It is a great tool to learn about emotions and introduce children to different faces and features of people. 
  • Introduce children to different careers using Multiethnic Career Puppets. These puppets depict multiethnic men and women in non-sexist career roles, so children can learn about jobs without prejudice and discrimination. 
  • Around The World Set includes 48 beautiful pieces that replicate iconic landmarks of the world such as Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, Pyramids of Giza. Let the young ones be mesmerized by some of the world’s greatest civilizations, as well as teach them that each culture has dazzling treasures to be proud of.   
  • Indigenous Peoples of Canada Book helps educate children about First Nations in Canada. This book specifically looks at the Cree, Anishinaabe (Ojibway), and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), and also includes an educator’s guide to teaching Native Studies in the classroom. 
  • Reach Across the World Rug is big, comfortable, and has drawings of 20 children dressed in cultural outfits, with the world map in the background. Not only does it look charming and delightful, but it can also be a great tool for teachers to bring the idea of diversity to children. “Many countries, many children, but only one world” is the message. 

Learning about Diversity and Equality should be a delightful and stimulating experience, as kids get to discover the beauty and uniqueness of distinct cultures and learn how to treat people fairly. Encourage students to have open conversations – about topics such as living standards, various customs of people, or simply the question of why each of us is so “different” from another. Take them on a journey to explore the beauty of cultures around the world: food, landmarks, arts, and let them know that every culture in the world is beautiful and full of pleasant surprises. Make the classroom an inclusive environment where everyone is valued by their opinions, background and teach children to treat everyone equally.

The Importance of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 

It is no surprise that children hold the key to the future; their generation consists of our future leaders, teachers, parents, and so much more. Learning to take care of the earth is a significant part of development and educating little ones about their personal responsibility to reduce, reuse and recycle. It puts them in the mindset to minimize their carbon footprint for the rest of their lives. Starting early by teaching children how to be environmentally friendly can have a very positive affect on their habits, and sustainability can become a natural and unconscious part of their decision making. 

Creating a better environment starts with our youth, and it starts in the classroom. There are lots of tips and lessons that can be taught to encourage and educate children of the importance of going green, and fun interactive activities that can make learning easy and memorable!

How to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: 


Purchase eco-friendly toys. PlanToys offers incredibly high-quality eco-friendly toys made of wood that offers a natural feel. These toys enhance development and allow children to experience play in a unique way that are not only adorable and fun, but also sustainable. The Dentist Set is a creative way to teach children about tooth care while simultaneously being made of super eco-friendly and sustainable material. There are so many different unique play experiences Plan Toy’s products have to offer, like the Bread Loaf Set where children get to pretend to be a baker, or the Tool Belt Set where children can practice fixing and creating things at the touch of their attached belt featuring a hammer, wrench, screwdriver, and level.       

children's play toolbelt

Do I really NEED it? Remind children that before they make a purchase, ask themselves if this item is a necessity, or something that can be left on the shelf. Use what you have at home first and think about ways to repurpose what you already own before purchasing new things. Don’t fall for “Buy One Get One Free” bargains if you don’t plan on using the second item. Taking a moment to really evaluate if the item is something you need can help save money and time – and help save items from becoming lost in landfills without a purpose. 

Limit waste. Food waste specifically is an incredibly common problem, not only for the food itself being wasted, but also the additional packing it comes with, such as extra and unnecessary plastic bags. Have an important conversation about brainstorming different ways we can all limit waste – at home, at school, and on the go. 

Here are some tips and ideas to mention for saving and reusing: 

  • Use reusable bags and lunch containers. 
  • Buy refillable cleaning products like hand sanitizer and soap. 
  • Freeze products that go bad quickly like bread and avocados.  
  • Make banana bread out of browning bananas! 


Reusable bags. Going to the grocery store and constantly taking disposable bags that are immediately thrown out is never good for the environment. Bring reusable ones. This is a habit to teach your class about – remind them that their backpacks are a perfect example of a way to use a bag repeatedly. 

Repurposing clothes. Their clothes can also be reused and repurposed, cut into cleaning cloths, blankets or any other various cloth household item.  They can continue to make new memories with their favourite clothes – just in new forms. 

Encourage donations. Teaching kids about reusing clothing, not only about thrift shopping for themselves, but also the importance of donating or handing down clothes when they no longer fit or desire them anymore. Chances are that most kids have grown out of some of their toys and clothing from their younger days. This is the perfect chance to give back! Explain the cycle of reusing and how shopping second hand at thrift stores can help benefit the community. 


Composting. Composting is the natural process of organic material like food scraps or old plants breaking down and turning a nutrient rich soil that has plenty of uses. It cuts down significantly on trash in landfills and creates a healthy soil that can be used as fertilizer (and does not require pesticides). The See-Through Compost Container is a neat way to witness the entire decomposition process from the comfort of your own classroom. With three aerated compartments, you can see different materials as they decompose individually and make comparisons. 

young girl looking at compost

How to Educate the Importance of Going Green: 

Global warming and climate change can be an intimidating topic for children, so it is important to approach it with sensitivity and awareness. Nonetheless, they are important conversations to have, especially since children hold the key to the future and have years of habit and decision making in front of them. Here are some tips on how to educate children on the importance of making eco-friendly choices. 

Inspire environmental curiosity. Little ones usually do not understand more complex concepts like greenhouse gases, so it makes the most sense to start simple. Teach children to plant seeds and take note of their environment, pointing out the flowers, animals, and insects. This makes them appreciate nature – and leave them wanting to protect it in the future. Make sure children spend some valuable time outside playing in nature to help them feel connected to the reason our earth is so important to protect. The All About Plants Series is fantastic way to learn more about plants, leaves, flowers, and more beautiful things that exist in our ecosystem.  

Recognize and encourage small actions. Remind children of the impact they have. Teach them about how picking up litter, preventing litter by always putting their appropriate items in the garbage or recycling, and packing lunches with reusable containers are all vital steps in protecting our earth – and no step is too small. Do not let them think they cannot make a difference – they can!  

three kids throwing water bottles into the recycling

 What are fun activities to teach the importance of sustainability?  

  • Recycling or Garbage? In this fun and simple sorting game, you can teach kids what goes in the recycling and what goes in the garbage with visual handmade cards! Cut out various recyclable and non-recyclable items from magazines and tape them onto card stock or thicker paper. Make some simple sorting boxes with signs on them and watch them place each item in either the recycling or garbage pile. After they choose each pile, you can discuss which items went in the right pile and which ones did not. It isa fantastic way to help children connect the dots and remember which items go in which bin when it is time to throw their things away.  
  • Recycle and paint! Making crafts is always a fun way to engage children in learning, and what better way to show an example of reusing things than painting. There are so many ways to use old items – old newspaper, single use plastic water bottles, corkscrews, egg cartons, the possibilities are endless! There are lots of fun eco-friendly crafts tools out there too, such as Wood Craft Rounds and the Natural Kraft Sheets.  
an eco-friendly paper package
  • Have a competition. Make recycling competitive. Challenge your fellow classes to see which class can fill up the most recycling in a month and celebrate with a pizza party afterwards! This helps give an incentive to remember to recycle, and who doesn’t love a friendly little competition? 
  • Read a book about recycling together. There are lots of important reads that help children understand the importance of recycling – such as the Planet Protector series, a non-fiction kid-friendly series of books all about fighting pollution, saving energy, reusing items, and not littering. The adorable and charismatic illustrations help make learning fun.  
  • Invite children to share about a way the reduced, reused, and recycled at home. Just like show and tell, ask children to name an example of how they implemented sustainable and eco-friendly habits in their own home. This helps them actively think of how they are making a difference individually and reminds them of the way they can influence habits that happen at home. It also challenges them to bring new and exciting ideas to the classroom and inspire friends and peers to do the same. 
  • Learn about the plant life cycle. With the Life Cycle of a Green Bean set, children get to watch a green bean seed germinate, develop roots and sprout. It is great for children to watch firsthand the life cycle of plants. It is an engaging way to learn with manipulatives that children can tangibly see the cycle of plant life. The Sprout and Grow Window offers a worm’s eye view of root growth. This transparent “nature’s window” allows gardeners of all ages to watch seeds sprout and grow into plants. It stands upright on a tabletop or windowsill, special potting soil nurtures seeds for optimum growth and comes with packets of bean and pea seeds. It also features a step-by-step guide with instructions, suggested activities, and journal pages to fill in as you follow the process from seed planting to full-grown plants. 
  • Pick up litter together. Spend some time outside cleaning up the playground to throw away litter. This gives children the opportunity to see recycling in real life, and becomes interactive, a way to remember and have an experience to reflect on it. It also acts as a way to help clean the surrounding areas and helps children see just how real littering and pollution can be. 
  • Inspire eco-friendly dramatic play. Children mimic what they learn in real life during dramatic play, so encouraging eco and nature friendly scenarios can help their imagination flourish. New Sprouts Grow It! Offers a garden full of imaginative play. Children can plant and grow flowers and veggies right before your eyes with gardening essentials including a watering can, shovel and 3 pots. It offers colourful mix-and-match flowers and veggies, encouraging role play and early vocabulary development while nurturing an appreciation for nature and simultaneously engaging in dramatic play. 
a young boy picking up litter

Tips for making recycling an important part of daily routine: 

  • Keep signs posted for directions and reminders to recycling cans and boxes. We could all use a reminder sometimes.  
  • Educate about hazardous materials. Items such as tires, paint, batteries, aerosol cans can be dangerous and should not be included with general waste products. 
  • Inspire conversation. Don’t stop talking about reducing, reusing, and recycling. Sharing new information, celebrating accomplishments in regards to picking up litter, using the right disposal method depending on the product, and being a strong leader in the fight against pollution all help put sustainability on your student’s radar. 
  • Keep plants around. Starting a garden outside can be a healthy environment for children to watch plants grow. A small greenhouse such as the Greenthumb Classroom Greenhouse is a fantastic place to start, since it features two sturdy wire shelves that keep potted plants off the ground, a clear vinyl cover that fits snugly over the metal frame and a large zippered opening to protect plants. 

Reduce our consumption, reuse our items, and always recycle – we hear these things all the time, but it’s important to remember to apply them to our own lives and encourage and inspire them in younger ones as well. With fun activities, positive reminders and unique games, you can help create a helpful learning experience that will cement recycling as a fundamental part of daily life and in the future. When we all work together, we can accomplish great things. By helping to work together, we can build a better, safer, cleaner world.        

two smiling children recycling together

The Weather Outside is Frightful, but Outdoor Play is so Delightful! 

As Canadians, we know the winter months tend to be a little colder (and longer) than we would like them to be. December, January, and February seem to drag into long, tiresome days that all blend together. Children get restless, parents get exhausted, and we are all waiting for those warm, light-hearted, and easy summer days to once again make their way back to us. 

However, winter doesn’t have to be so dreary, dull and boring. What if we decided to make the most out of the winter season and create a positive outdoor environment for our kids to play in? 

Outdoor play is an important part of early childhood development and living a healthy and happy lifestyle all around. Playing outdoors can help with both mental and physical health at all ages, so it is an important habit to instil in young children. The barrier between having fun and learning through play shouldn’t be cold weather, so here are some tips on how to make the most of outdoor play in the winter months. 

“Outdoor play is an important part of early childhood development and living a healthy and happy lifestyle all around.”

Being prepared for outdoor play: 

-Make sure you bundle warm. This seems self-explanatory, but it is none the less very important. Ensure that all little ones have the proper winter equipment like gloves or mittens, ski pants, toques, scarves and boots depending on the temperature. Make sure communication with parents is clear when organizing outdoor activities so that winter gear is sent daily. Try sending a reminder through email or newsletter or create posters to place around the entrances with reminders about the need for warm outdoor equipment. 

-Always check the weather. Some temperatures just aren’t safe for outdoor play, and sometimes winter can be sunny and warm and may not require as much outdoor gear as others. Oh, and don’t forget the wind chill!  

Read and learn about the fundamentals of play. Do some research, and find out what works for you and your kids. A good source of information is the Seasons of Play book! It comes with plenty of natural environment play inspiration and ideas for all four seasons, and a question-and-answer section at the back. It features lots of beautiful photography as well to really help get your mind picturing outdoor play!  

Remember safety comes first. Always use your best judgement to ensure the kids are safe, dressed appropriately, and having a blast! 

So, what kinds of outdoor play are good for the staying fit and healthy during the winter months?  

-Outdoor sports. When it comes to outdoor sports, the possibilities are endless. Any kind of games like winter soccer, sledding, or visit an outdoor skating rink. Anything that gets kids moving and encourages fitness outdoors counts!  

small child in winter gear playing on the playground in snow

-Going for a walk. There is nothing better than getting some fresh air, especially after being cooped up all day in a room. Going for walks has been proven to improve both mental and physical health, and during long, dark days with little sunlight and movement, this is especially important.  

Snow play. The possibilities are endless when it comes to snow play! From building forts, to sculpting snow men, to whatever their creative little hands can create. Provide kids with fun tools like buckets, mini shovels, mini rakes and watch their innovation come to life! It’s a classic, you really can’t go wrong with traditional snow play! 

-Let them get creative. Kids often don’t need guidance when it comes to play. They will have their own dramatic play scenarios ready before you know it! 

“Playing outside can help boost mood, mental health, and physical health.”

What are some fun activities and games for outdoor play? 

-Snow shovelling. Help teach kids how to shovel! Grab a shovel and show kids the ropes! This is a great and practical activity that kids can use to help at home whenever the snow falls!  

young child walking in the snow with a toy shovel and bucket

-Snow painting. Painting without the mess! Using spray bottles, fill up water with food colouring and let kids use it to spray in the snow. The best part: no clean up and it disappears completely on its own! 

-Polar Footprints. Using Let’s Investigate: Polar Footprints, allow children to make imprints in the snow. This is a great opportunity to teach them about wildlife that inherits the polar frozen landscape up north. Farmyard Footsteps or Let’s Investigate Woodland Footprints are also great options for learning about other types of animals! It’s educational, creative and fun!      

-Winter Scavenger Archaeologist Hunt. Burry various outdoor play items like Dinosaur Bones or Animal Friends under the snow and let kids dig them out to find it! They will love feeling like little archaeologists as they dig their way to find hidden treasure!  

“Getting fresh air and taking a break from the routine of learning indoors can encourage longer attention spans and help children feel refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.”

What are the Benefits of Playing Outdoors? 

Reducing the risk of catching a cold. Despite popular belief, playing outside in the winter is a fantastic way to help build kids build their natural immunity. The fresh air as opposed to recycled air in an enclosed space is much better for ventilation. Additionally, cold temperatures do not allow certain types of bacteria to survive minimizing the risk of catching an illness. 

Lowering the risk of developing childhood obesity. The winter months are notorious for eating lots of unhealthy foods and treats, which is great in moderation but can also lead to fatigue and weight gain. Outdoor winter play helps keep these things at bay and encourages movement, is great exercise and helps maintain a healthy life balance. 

Mental health benefits. Staying inside all day long is not healthy for anyone, especially children. Getting active outside helps boost mood, mental and physical stamina. Seasonal depression is prevalent at all ages, and children are no exception. Getting fresh air and exercise is extra important in the winter months!  

two kids smiling going sledding in the winter

Why is Outdoor Play so useful for Early Development? 

From mental and physical benefits to allowing children to be creative and have fun, outdoor play is an all-around important part of childhood growth. Playing outside can help boost mood, mental health, and physical health. Getting fresh air and taking a break from the routine of learning indoors can encourage longer attention spans and help children feel refreshed and ready to take on new challenges. It’s great for helping kids build connections with other kids and working as a team. Maybe those winter blues aren’t so bad after all!     

Support Early Development with Social & Emotional Learning 

What is social-emotional learning?  

Social-emotional learning, or SEL for short, is the process of educating children on how to identify and manage their emotions. It is an important process for early development as it helps children build relationships, cope with stress, and form a better understanding of themselves and how to regulate their feelings. There is a huge link between SEL and mental health, since it creates emotional maturity, and expands the feeling of control over one’s thoughts and life. It creates empathy and helps children put routines in place for ways to handle extreme emotions when they arise. SEL encourages children to familiarize themselves with ways to handle different emotions such as anger, excitement, jealousy, worrying, happiness and sadness.  

Why is it important for early development? 

Social-emotional learning is very valuable for early development as it helps set up skills that are important for day-to-day interactions with other people as well as one’s own self-control. Emotion management can be difficult for young children, and it can often remain a challenge in teen and adult years. This is an example of how early development can set the stage for later years, as habits, attention to actions, and control are all a huge part of successfully managing emotions. SEL is also important for awareness, as it teaches children to be aware of their communication with others, become a more understanding friend, and compassionate community member.  

SEL builds a foundation for a cooperative and happy classroom, and research shows that SEL leads to less emotional distress, better grades, test scores and focusing abilities. This also benefits teachers who as a result, spend less time disciplining students. Emotions heavily affect learning and behaviour, often causing students to talk out of turn or be a distraction to themselves or their peers. SEL is incredible because it goes beyond just helping children in the classroom – it helps children throughout a lifetime.  

SEL is incredible because it goes beyond just helping children in the classroom – it helps children throughout a lifetime.  

children in a classroom learning about emotions with their teacher

What are the five components in social emotional learning? 

There are five main components to SEL learning and focusing on these individual components is a significant step in creating independent, successful and confident learners. The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has identified these 5 components in social emotional learning that are connected to competencies: 

  1. Self-awareness 

Being aware of oneself, abilities, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses. This is a huge part in creating new and better habits for emotional regulation, as it is important to be conscious of weaknesses to improve.  

  1. Self-management 

Controlling behaviours and impulses, managing stress and motivation to set and achieve realistic goals. Self-management can take some adjusting to, as reprogramming your brain to recognize situations in a separate way can be a learning curve.  

  1. Social awareness 

The ability to identify other people’s emotions and understand other point of views with empathy and compassion. Social awareness is the ability to recognize social cues, facial expressions, and being capable of stepping outside their own experiences and feel for others, regardless of their background or circumstance. 

  1. Relationship skills 

Being able to build and maintain relationships and create positive personal interactions while playing and working with others. This can look like engaging in productive conversations, asking questions, effective communication habits and being an inclusive friend.    

  1. Responsible decision-making 

Being conscious of consequences and making good decisions. Responsible decision making is a huge part of development, since it helps children understand cause and effect and prepares them immensely for the future. Even simple decisions like seating arrangements or clothing choices help children develop a sense of authority over their own lives and helps them feel in control and capable of making their own resolutions. 

How can social-emotional learning be used to help emotion management/behaviours and where should I start?  

As an educator, there are many things we can do to help children learn how to self-regulate. For starters, identifying what kind of problems students are having. Are you noticing a lot of fidgeting? What about accomplishing goals and meeting deadlines? Are students experiencing a lot of conflict amongst each other? Sometimes the simplest tasks can make the biggest difference, and when it comes to social-emotional learning starting off with small tasks and information gathering can be a great first step. 

Even simple decisions like seating arrangements or clothing choices help children develop a sense of authority over their own lives and helps them feel in control and capable of making their own resolutions. 

  • Start simple. SEL conversations do not need to be extreme or even out of the ordinary. Observe behaviours. It is easier to help settle certain emotions once you have noticed a reoccurring pattern. Watch children in your classroom interact and get a sense for their personalities, tempers and habits. 
  • Encourage conversation. Ask students what they are struggling with and identify the problems, what are triggering them, and steps to put in place to help calm down or moderate the situation in the future. Make sure all students know that it is important to talk about their feelings and express them, and that keeping them inside and feeling alone is not the answer. 
  • Educate them about how to have empathy for other students. It is incredibly important to make sure children can put themselves in other people’s shoes and feel for them. Ensure that they are aware of being sensitive to other people’s situations and encourage them to treat their classmates with kindness!  
  • Check in with your students. Ask them how their day is, or how their weekend was. This is a fantastic way to show you care and help students feel like they are included, and it makes them want to reciprocate the energy. Start every day with a simple “How are you feeling?” question to make them feel supported.  
  • Start every morning with a positive reminder. Encouraging and giving positive feedback to children can really help them have a positive self-esteem.  Ask children to write something nice about themselves each day. This helps build a constructive and supportive feeling in the classroom!  
two young girl having fun with a guitar and fishing net outdoors

How can I help my students regulate themselves emotionally?  

There are many exercises students and educators alike can engage in to help understand social emotional learning and set them up with positive emotion regulation skills. Encouraging children to express their feelings in a healthy way instead of repressing them is a great first step, as many children (and adults alike) have difficulty speaking about their emotions as they feel they should be kept inside. Encourage students to speak about how they are feeling and remind them by asking them how they are feeling consistently. Teach them ways to cope when these feelings arise. Imagine a toolbox equipped with everything you may need to fix something. Sometimes you need a drill, other times you may need a small pair of pliers. That is kind of what coping with emotions is like. Every situation is different, but the common theme is still the same, and you need to adapt these tools and strategies for different emotions.  

 Here are some tips and lessons to help guide your classroom through social emotional learning. 

  • Show and discuss a feeling wheel. Feeling wheels can be very helpful when identifying emotions, as they are colour coded and can familiarize themselves with the colours that correspond with the matching emotion. This is a huge help for those who are visual learners especially. Ask questions like “what feelings do you think when you think of the colour blue?” and discuss these emotional connections. Doing an art project and using different colours is a creative way to allow students to demonstrate the correlation between emotion and colour. 
girls playing, smiling and painting
  • Validate their feelings. No matter how big or how small a situation is, the emotions that follow it can often grab a strong hold on us. Having an adult listen to their feelings and tell them that it is okay to feel the way they do as opposed to “just get over it” or “stop complaining” can make a world of difference. Instead of saying something like ‘Stop feeling nervous”, try something like “Lots of people get nervous when speaking in front of other people. What can we do to help you feel less nervous?” This can significantly help students to feel validated, safe understood and encourages suggested solutions for emotional regulation to come from them directly. 
  • Pay attention to the senses. Ask students to identify five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one thing they can taste. Encourage students to do this exercise when they experience extreme emotions, as it helps them stay grounded when they are in a panic. Teach about breathing lessons, such as taking deep breaths in and out and ways to use this to become calm in high stress situations. 
  • Write positive affirmations for classmates. Pair up some classmates and ask them to write some positive qualities about each other. Even simple affirmations and compliments can make a difference and help children work towards better self-esteems and learning more about each other to learn more about empathy and inclusivity. 
  • Teach about changing mindset and language. Changing phrases from “I can’t do it” and “This is hard” to more affirming language like “I can do it once I keep trying” and “This will take effort and time”. Brainstorm ways as a class to change the language you are using boost confidence and find solutions. The Mindset Bulletin Board set and the Grow For It! Mini Bulletin Board Set are great visuals to start with. 
young girl learning during early development with her teacher

What are some childcare resources and educational supplies that can help regulate emotions?  

Every child’s needs can look different. One specific and very common thing a lot of children struggle with focus and ability to stay still, especially during teaching lessons. This can cause anger and frustration in children, which can stay bottled up and become difficult for children to maintain and keep under control and often result in lashing out or tantrums.   

Some suggestions to regulate these tough emotions are using various stimulating toys, such as the wiggle seatbalance ball chairfidget foot rollerwiggle wobble chair feet, and bouncyband for desks. These products by Bouncyband are fantastic because they are available in multiple sizes and colours to best accommodate the student. They are perfect at getting out wiggles and fidgets and helps refocus learning so that students can be at their best. Assisting in letting out their frustrations and restlessness can help productivity and mental clarity and help the class mood become lighter and more on track. They promote energy and stamina to help children be more attentive.  

child sitting at desk reading with Wiggle Wobble Chair Feet

Children are happier when their brains are stimulated and are mentally engaged. The clearer they can think guides them in the right direction in all aspects of learning. Bouncyband offers more solutions than just seating arrangements; they also offer incredible sensory toys that help fidgeting fingers which are often a product of anxiety. The thingmajig or the fidget phone are both great for children who feel overstimulated and require hands on learning to help them refocus. 

child sitting at desk with book and sensory toy

Reading about emotions is a great way to help students learn about SEL. Book series like the Dealing with Feeling series looks at a different emotion commonly experienced by young children such as angry, caring, happy, jealous, proud, sad, shy and worried. Another great reading choice is Have You Filled a Bucket Today, an award-winning heart-warming book that encourages positive behaviour as children see how very easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation and love daily. The books help readers to identify their emotions and provide tips and advice on how best to express and deal with them. Another option could be breaking out into groups and playing Social Emotional Learning Games, like Personal Growth GamesConflict Resolution Games, and Social Skills Game to learn about emotions with a more fun, playful, and interactive approach. The Explore Emotions Super Doll encourages discussions about feelings with this cute and soft doll. By using the Velcro facial features, students can create 16 different emotions on the dolls face. 

child holding stuffed doll featuring a confused face

Social-emotional learning focuses on personal difficulties and how to improve them, such as focusing ability, restlessness, conflict resolution, teamwork, setting goals, and coping with emotions. It serves a purpose of benefiting personal growth and managing day to day tasks. SEL may seem complex and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Starting with small conversations, tips and discussions and ease the way into emotional regulation and decision making. Learning is different for every child, especially when each child is unique and has different ways of learning. Offering solutions to different problems and listening to children’s voices is very important because they know their styles and needs best, so taking a lead from them by asking for ideas and input is fantastic to make sure your teaching style is adequate to their learning style. 

Preparing your Classroom for the New Year!

It’s that time of year again – freshly sharpened pencils, brand new backpacks, and smiling faces. There are so many things to think about when it comes to organizing a new year! Returning to school can be hectic, and there’s lots to focus on when it comes to planning new lessons, rearranging the classroom, and, of course, getting to know your new students.  

Here are some tips, inspirations, and products for making this year the best year yet!  

Start Fresh 

Keep a positive, fresh, and brand-new mindset. Leave behind the stresses or messes that happened last year! The last year and a half has been anything but ordinary, so don’t be hard on yourself. It’s crucial to take care of yourself this school year. Clean up your workspace and make it the most optimal space for you!  

Lessons and classroom décor can be stressful when you leave them to the last minute. It’s important to stay on schedule and keep on track by planning. Using a calendar and checklists make it easier to keep track and organize the upcoming year. 

Getting to know your students 

Playing fun ice breaking games is one great way to engage students during the first few days of school, which can be awkward for some. Encouraging a positive and friendly work environment is a great way to help students feel more comfortable. Making a class birthday calendar and celebrating birthdays together is a fun and an inclusive way to remember everybody’s birthday and celebrate together!  

Some students need help calming their first day jitters, and some can have a difficult time paying attention in class, and sensory activities often help aid as a solution. Providing things like Bouncyband chair feet or the Bouncyband wiggle seat for your students can help fuel their excitement for learning.  

It’s important to discipline poor behaviour in the classroom, but it’s equally important to praise good behaviour, such as giving students stickers as a reward for great work. Students are motivated when they are receiving positive feedback for their actions, and it sets the narrative to other students that their good work does not go unnoticed!  

Must-have Classroom Resources 

Looking for some great products for back to school? Here’s some of our recommendations! 

Social distancing is still important going back to school this fall and social distancing spots help make it simple. Made from disposable and waterproof fabric, they are perfect for the classroom. They can even be drawn on with markers or crayons to make them special and personalized! 

The Scheduling Pocket Chart is perfect for the new year! It features fourteen pockets to display the plan for the day, helping students learn to prepare, schedule, and recognize time and daily routine!  

The busy fingers gel fidget is a great tool for students who need to keep those hands busy during lesson time. It quietly helps to relieve stress and boredom and provides sensory input. 

Looking for more back to school inspiration? Check out our Pinterest Boards where we have tons of product ideas, inspiration, and printable activities for your classroom!