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Why Take EYFS Literacy Outdoors?

Updated: Jun 26

Do you tend to keep literacy inside the classroom? How much thought do you give to planning outdoor literacy activities? Here, we take a look at the benefits of outdoor literacy learning for children in the early years. The good news is that you don't need to spend a great deal on resources to create a range of fun, meaningful and engaging activities!

A phonics letter made using petals.
Making letters with petals

The Benefits of Outdoor Literacy Learning

The statutory framework for the early years, states that, 'Providers must provide access to an outdoor play area or, if that is not possible, ensure that outdoor activities are planned and taken on a daily basis (unless circumstances make this inappropriate, for example unsafe weather conditions).'

Another important early year's document, Development Matters, also highlights its importance, stating that, 'A well-planned learning environment, indoors and outside, is an important aspect of pedagogy.' Research shows that outdoor literacy learning can:

  • promote a sense of well-being and have a calming effect.

  • promote language and communication skills - some children find it easier to communicate outdoors because they can use an 'outdoor' voice and they feel freer and more relaxed.

  • have a positive effect on physical health, as children generally have more space to be active whilst learning outdoors.

  • help children to learn about the world around them whilst taking part in literacy activities.

This research into the benefits of outdoor learning in the early years, by the National Literacy Trust, highlights further important points which you may find interesting.

EYFS Literacy Outdoors: Learning Activities

These outdoor literacy activities for Reception and the early years are perfect for you to use at home or in your setting! Most take very little time to set up, using resources which you probably already have to hand. You'll be taking EYFS literacy outdoors in no time!


  • Set up a reading tent so that children can look at books together, even if it's drizzling outside!

  • Make a reading area using logs or hay bales, for groups to sit on and share books.

  • Find quiet nooks and crannies in your outdoor area and add cushions to create individual spaces for children to read.

  • Put out a selection of fiction and non-fiction texts, comics, laminated nursery rhymes and poems, etc. Books about nature, gardening and the weather are perfect!

  • Provide puppets and cuddly toys, so that children can use them to retell stories. Alternatively, they might want to read a book to the toys.

  • Have a role-play box containing hats, scarves, glasses and more.

  • Read to little ones (or big kids!) outside and provide blankets and hot chocolate to make the experience feel magical.

  • Allow the children to take pictures or film each other retelling stories, reciting a poem outdoors or following instructions to plant seeds.

  • Set up a stage using decking, wooden crates or just a rug!

A child reading a book outdoors
Reading outside


  • Provide plenty of opportunities for little ones to develop their gross motor skills. The large muscles in the upper body are important for the postural control required for writing. Sweeping up leaves, dancing with a ribbon and cleaning windows are all great activities to try!

  • In addition to their gross motor skills, children will also need to develop their fine motor skills so that they can grip a pencil and have the stamina needed for writing. Planting flowers, squeezing wet sponges and painting rocks are all activities which can help to develop the fine motor skills.

  • Lay out large rolls of paper or open out old cardboard boxes to practise mark-making or writing words and sentences on.

  • Make a mud kitchen recipe book together. Laminate it so that it can be used again and again!

  • Provide clip boards so that children can write lists of things that they see, a poem about nature or a story about a butterfly!

  • Encourage children to write their own signs for your outdoor space, on pieces of wood.

  • Make maps of your immediate outdoor area or the local area - add pictures, symbols and a key.

  • Ensure that children have access to a range of writing materials; including chalks, pencils, pens, crayons, charcoal, pastels, paints and more!

A child's bug hotel with a sign
Making signs for the outdoors in early years


  • Go on a sound walk around the local area. Listen for loud and soft/high and low sounds. Can the children identify what is making the sounds?

  • Play instruments outdoors - compare the different sounds which they make.

  • Sing songs and rhymes - why not dance using pom poms and ribbons too?

  • Look for things which rhyme in the environment, for example a cat and a hat, or a dog and a log. Make up silly rhymes together!

  • Write your focus letters/sounds on skittles, depending on which phase you are studying. Children can say the sounds out loud as they bowl the skittles over.

  • Encourage children to practise mark-making or forming letters using a paintbrush dipped in water, chalks on different surfaces or using a stick in a patch of mud.

  • Write your focus letters/sounds/words on the wall - children can shoot a bow and arrow at each one and say them out loud.

  • Go on a letter and word hunt in the local area. Children could make their own cardboard tube binoculars to search for signs, logos and street names.

  • Use chalk to write words on the wall. Children could fire a water pistol along each sound and then blend the sounds together to read the word.

  • Write words on the ground, with spaces between each of the sounds. Children can bounce a ball on the sounds and blend them together to read the words.

  • Provide an easel, a blackboard or a whiteboard on the wall to practise segmenting (stretching words out and breaking it into sounds) or spelling tricky words.

Phonics Activities Books for Teaching Children

These phonics books for Reception contain awesome indoor and outdoor activities! Click on the images to take you to them!

Hands-On Learning Resources for 3-7 Year Olds

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If you have any further ideas for literacy learning in the outdoors, don't forget to add them to the comments below!

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