Most schools are feeling the pinch in terms of having money to spend on resources and equipment. Thankfully, working outside does not have to rely on expensive kits. Here’s a selection you can make from cardboard, paper and other easily available materials.

Remember – your class can make their own kit! There’s lots of skills to be learned along the way. Many of the suggestions would also work as a collaborative project between older and younger children.

Now this is advance planning. As we are well into the summer term, you can immediately put your resources to good use. Better still, you can ensure systems are in place for next year, thereby reducing time, money and stress after the holidays 🙂

White sheet – useful for gathering activities where found objects are a focus – see Chapter 3 in my Dirty Teaching book. It is also handy for art work and shadow explorations especially if you hang vertically and the children create a shadow dance or puppet show behind this on a sunny day. It’s worth ripping up old sheets to make one-metre sizes for small group work too.

Flower and leaf press – in this blog post, I’ve used clipboards to help make the press. Since then, I’ve discovered that you don’t even need clipboards – you can fasten two sheets of boxboard together with elastic bands. Dried flowers and leaves are a free source of art material, can help children learn about the structure and function of different plant parts and make lovely illustrations for journals and floor books.

Seed packets – this is a meaningful way of exposing children to environmental print. Use old books or try the origami method. Either way, this is a valuable activity to precede seed collection all year round and can kickstart seed exchange programmes.

Binoculars – ask for donations of toilet tubes. Children enjoy decorating these and using them as binoculars.

Viewing frames. Old picture frames are great for outdoor art and viewing the world in a frame. However, getting children to create their own variety from cereal packet cardboard is a personal approach to helping them frame and focus on objects and landscape features outside.

Portable seats. These are vital so that your class can sit anywhere outside and not get wet. Rain won’t get in the way of great learning 🙂 I have a bit of an obsession with seats so you can:

  • Challenge children to make one for themselves as a homework activity
  • Use a peg loom to weave seats – the kits are easy to make but quite cheap to buy too.
  • Create a Swedish-style felted seat

Magnifying bottles. Water placed in a plastic bottle can be used as a magnifying object. Furthermore, you can add interesting items into a bottle and add water for these to appear larger than life.

Kites. Many different versions can be created from unwanted plastic. This one is particularly simple to make and easy to fly. The skills involved include symmetry, design and technology as well as a practical application of airflow, thrust and lift.

Dance resources. These are great fun. Once children know how to make them, you can have a place in your classroom for children to further make and create their own designs. Put a call out for unwanted charity bags.


Collect natural resources. As long as you adhere to the land access laws of your country and do it in a sustainable way, then create collections of rocksfeathersconkerssea glassshellsstickscones and so on.  This is particularly useful if your outdoor space is mainly asphalt and there’s few natural resources in situ. Families may also enjoy this activity especially during holidays. For example, asking each child to bring a bundle of 10 small sticks can quickly create a collection that will last many years.

Journals. In my experience the nicest and most simple journals to record outdoor experiences are made from old pieces of card. Raid your art cupboard for all the unwanted sheets. A5 is a good size. After each outdoor session, children can record their thoughts or evaluate what happened in many different ways. It’s a lovely way of capturing their learning.

Anymore ideas? Let’s share and celebrate and add to the list!

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