Literacy Outdoors

A comprehensive collection of 50+ outdoor literacy ideas, activities and suggestions. They are open-ended and many work well with a range of ages and abilities. Most just rely on a few free and found resources. Check them out!

Outside children are often observed talking more, cooperating, socialising, mark making and doing many literacy activities often through their own choice. Please enjoy trying the activities and suggestions in the posts below and let me know how you get on.

Outdoor Literacy Books, Packs and Downloads

This is a useful blog post if you are looking for further resources

Writing Outside

Let’s Get Writing Outside!

Practical tips for organising writing outside all year round

Full Stops Outside

Punctuation inspiration from outside

A Blog Wordle

Using wordles to support outdoor learning activities

Making Sense of Metaphors

An approach that begins with what children do best – playing in a natural setting

Circle Poems in Action

Using tyres for poetry work

What about the Royal Wedding?

Using simple sayings for scavenger hunts and discussions. Creating diamante poems

Snow Stencils and Blood

Using syringes for writing in the snow

Literacy Trails in Outdoor Spaces

The benefits of children creating trails

Nature Detectives

How to keep your secret messages secret outside!

Wooden Spoons at The Coombes School

An interdisciplinary art, design and writing project

Learning on your Doorstep

Ideas about developing characters, settings and sequencing stories outside

Wishing Rods and Speed Breakers

Beech folklore and public art used to inspire writing outdoors

Fairy Gardens and Literacy

A super context for fantasy small-world play outside. It’s been an ongoing project in Westpark nursery.

Letter awareness

Forming Letters Outdoors

Practical suggestions to support children as they move into this process

Eye Painting

Learning to read and write letters through a photo-based app for children

Sticky Letters

Creating letters using double sided sticky tape and natural materials

Letters from Sticks

Using sticks to create capital letters

Introducing Letters

Making letters from natural materials

Reading Outside

10 Outdoor Ways to Celebrate Books

Time to get outside, get active and enjoy reading or finding out more about books. 10 suggestions to get you started.

Reading Books Outdoors

Some basic advice to get this going.

Story Lines Outside

How to use a washing line to create and tell stories

Back to School

Ten things you need to find out. A practical reading activity outside for the start of a new term

A Poetry Walk at The Coombes School

A simple reading activity outside

A Harry Potter Hunt

Using maps, clues and old-fashioned deduction skills to solve a puzzle


Linking stones to their potential for literacy and maths activities

Story Stones and Thinking Skills

The power of abstract designs on story telling

The Story of Fred the Ted

Using landmarks and literacy with young children

The Comedy Carpet

Outdoor literacy at its best

Alphabet mirror letters

For seeing letters and outdoor spaces in a different way

Reading Outdoors with Fred the Ted

A World Book Day activity

Recycling Books for use Outdoors

How to lengthen the life of a book by taking it outside

The Snowdrop Story

Why snowdrops show that spring is coming

Reading into the outdoors

Holiday reading and school grounds provision

Beware – Extreme Signage

Environmental print that is not so welcoming

I’m in Charge of Celebrations

An Earth Day activity using this book as a springboard

A Fish Trail Not a Fishy Tale

Using wordplay and sculptures to explore a local area

A Flock of Words

Bird jokes, poems, quotes and ideas for linking literacy with our feathered friends

The Stone Jetty Ramblings

More birds, word games and sculptures that help people interpret and enjoy the local area and the bird life.

Is there a nature app for that?

The identification apps which are simple enough for children and adults who know little about nature to use. Great for reading for meaning and purpose!

Back to school – 10 things you need to find out

Following simple instructions activity to help children get to know each other outside.

Celebrate the Wonder of Nature with a Byrd Baylor Book

Using books as a springboard into learning outside.

Repurpose School Books into Seed Packets

Start collecting seeds in these DIY packets. Create a seed exchange with local schools. Oh and the children can’t help reading the text on their packets!

Origami Seed Packets

A simple way of making packets to collect and store seeds. Brilliant! Again, children talk about and read the text on the paper they use.

A Red Rose Hunt for Valentine’s Day

Fuse Rabbie Burn’s poem with Valentine’s Day – learn poetry and mapping skills

10 useful fiction books for nature play and transitions

A budget approach to books bags or story sacks. Just add nature play ideas – no need to worry about missing jigsaw pieces anymore.

Talking and Listening Outside

Listening Activities Outside

Using your sense of hearing

Literacy in the Woods at the Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery

A free play approach to literacy acquisition outside – lots of talking and listening and lots more beside!

Snip Snap Snout! My Story’s Out

A clear structure and approach to developing oral story telling skills outside by Catherine Heppenstall


The story of the holly, the pine and the robin. A little Christmas tale to warm your heart.

Exploring Collective Nouns Through FreezePaint

A photographic scavenger hunt to develop vocabulary and understanding of collective nouns.

Using Puppets Outdoors 10 Tips and More

Ideas and suggestions for using puppets outside. Check out the link to the video clip. It’s inspirational!

10+ Ideas for Using Story Stones

Story stones are one of the most versatile creative literacy resources. Time to create some and get those stories flowing! Great for writing as well as talking and listening.

Juliet runs outdoor literacy courses for pre-school and primary teachers and practitioners

Here’s some of her past workshops which include elements of talking, listening, reading and writing:

Orientate Yourself to Outdoor Learning

Outdoor literacy workshop based on circles

Leaf Loving Literacy Activities

The outdoor literacy activities covered at the Growing Greener Futures Conference which had a focus on leaves

Outdoor Literacy Activities at Mackie Academy

Three poetry structures well worth using outside

Love Outdoors

Using hearts and Tanka poems at Valentine’s Day literacy workshop

Outdoor Journeys in Language

Linking literacy with journeys

10 Reasons Why I Teach Literacy Outside

Time to step outside and love learning literacy through real world opportunities

Finally, Anne Sutherland kindly sent me this link to her dissertation about the impact of language work outside. It’s called L is for Language – you need to scroll down and click on the link. I’m interested to know about any other curriculum-specific research out there at any level.

The most recent Literacy Outdoors blog posts are below

10 Reasons Why I Teach Literacy Outside

5 February 2018
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Time to step out & step up the expectations and possibilities

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15 Outdoor Literacy Books, Packs and Downloads

16 January 2018
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Useful source of info – check out the links

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10+ Useful Fiction Books to Support Nature Play and Transition

18 February 2017
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Love books, love nature play…

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Forming Letters Outdoors

30 August 2016
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How to make handwriting fun

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Wooden Cable Drums – Developing Physical and Literacy Skills Outside

29 June 2016
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One repurposed resource which withstands a lot of wear and tear is the cable reel or drum that is used to store electrical wires. They are very flexible pieces of outdoor “furniture” which are worth seeking out in your local area. With sanding and painting, they can end up looking rather smart. Certainly a quick […]

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A Red Rose Hunt for Valentine’s Day

3 February 2016
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A love-ly idea

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10+ Ideas for Using Story Stones

12 September 2015
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A creative outdoor resource

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Let’s Get Writing Outside

12 August 2015
Writing Outside

Writing outside is becoming increasingly popular in many primary and secondary schools.

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Re-using Paper – Origami Seed Packets

30 May 2015
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Recently I blogged about making seed packets from unwanted books. This is a brilliant concept in that it’s an informal approach to children continuing to interact with text in a way that is short, sweet and fun. When I posted this blog, Mark Paterson, the Curator of Cruickshank Botanic Garden, told me that he and […]

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Repurpose school books into seed packets

11 March 2015
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There are many books especially textbooks and non-fiction books which are simply no longer fit for purpose. Some charities, such as Books Abroad, will take unwanted educational texts, but their criteria needs to be checked and only specific books can be donated. Recently I met Bridgette Watts, who is an active member of the volunteer organisation Urban […]

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The Douglas Fir Tree and the Mice

18 January 2015
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Today I was walking in a local woodland when I came across a magnificent Douglas Fir tree. These trees are not native to the UK but the West Coast of  North America, where they have been known to grow to over 85 metres high. The Douglas Fir, as it is commonly known, is named in honour […]

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Exploring Collective Nouns Through FreezePaint

24 December 2014
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Whilst attending the Real World Learning Network Conference back in November I had the opportunity to chat to Liz Earley, who works for the Field Studies Council. Once we discovered we both used iPads outdoors we took 5 minutes to share some apps. Liz showed me how she used FreezePaint to enable students to capture landforms observed in the local […]

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25 November 2014
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Nine years ago I planted a holly tree in front of my house. It has grown slowly but steadily and now stands at about 2m tall. Last winter I was delighted to discover that it was a female tree. There were three berries on it. This did surprise me because there are no holly trees that […]

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10 Outdoor Ways to Celebrate Books

25 October 2014
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Books are brilliant. They create worlds within our heads – places of power and possibilities. They feed our imagination and allow us to think “What if…?” As my friend, Dominic the Storyteller once told me, “Pictures tell a 1000 words, but stories create a 1000 pictures.” Book Week Scotland is 24-30 November and to give […]

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National Poetry Day – 10 Ideas for Creating Poems Outside

27 September 2014
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National Poetry Day is celebrated on the first Thursday in October. It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the power and pleasure of words. It is also an ideal introduction to writing outdoors. Here’s some ideas to get you started:

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Snip Snap Snout – My Story’s Out

8 June 2014
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Just before the Easter break, I had the privilege of being part of the I’m a Kid Get Me Out of Here conference organised by Kirklees CC and based at the brilliant Cliffe House – a council run outdoor studies and conference centre. If you click on the link you can find a detailed account […]

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Fairy Gardens and Literacy

4 May 2014
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Recently I visited Westpark  Nursery in Aberdeen, which had been donated a large raised bed – the sort that is traditionally used around towns for floral displays. At first the staff and children wondered how to use it as it seemed too big and too high to be of any real use. Then a spark of […]

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Celebrate the Wonder of Nature with a Byrd Baylor Book

18 February 2014
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One of my favourite children’s authors is Byrd Baylor. Her open-ended books make ideal springboards to many outdoor activities. They challenge the readers to investigate the statements in her stories for themselves. She writes beautifully about fostering a deep connection to the landscape which values simplicity and nature. Byrd does this in a way that children just […]

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Is There a Nature App for That?

6 November 2013
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Useful reference apps

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Story Lines Outside

1 September 2013
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A simple reading activity

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Eye Painting

12 August 2013
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Use this app to paint with your eye not your fingers

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Back to School – 10 Things You Need to Find Out

9 August 2013
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An outdoor activity designed to help a class settle in after the holidays

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Skitch Those Water Wall Designs

28 June 2013
Funky Water Wall

There’s no point in having an iPad it you don’t use it.

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Using Thinking Journals Outside

14 May 2013
Thinking Child

Sue Dixon of The Thinking Child Consultancy shares ideas about Thinking Journals.

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Literacy in the Woods at the Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery

6 December 2012
Literacy in the Woods

Reading and writing are complex processes.

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Learning on your Doorstep – Ideas for Developing Writing Outdoors

17 October 2012
Learning on your Doorstep

Outdoor writing activities and a review of Learning on your Doorstep.

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The Stone Jetty Ramblings

1 September 2012
Public Art

Public works of art are a great idea for free activities for the family.

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A Flock of Words

15 August 2012
Flock of Words

Art and literacy outdoors with a flock of words and birds!

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A Fish Trail not a Fishy Tale

21 July 2012
Fishy Trail

The Fish Trail shows just how creative a trail can be, enabling anyone to enjoy science, language, art, people and place.

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Literacy Trails in Outdoor Spaces

23 June 2012
Literacy Trails

Wherever you teach, the place has possibilities for trails of all sorts.

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Creating On-Going Dialogue and Change with Children

20 June 2012
Fred the Ted

Fred the Ted helps out.

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I’m in Charge of Celebrations: Earth Day Book Activity

8 April 2012
I'm in charge of celebrations

Earth Day and celebrations – are you in charge of them?

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Beware! Extreme Signage

28 March 2012

Instructions, warnings, ‘elf and safety – signs everywhere!

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The Snowdrop Story

7 March 2012

How the snowdrop came to be white…

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Reading Outside with Fred the Ted

3 March 2012
Fred the Ted reading

The children are extremely kind and considerate of Fred the Ted’s requests.

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Alphabet Mirror Letters

18 February 2012
Alphabet Mirrors

What happens with the alphabet mirrors outdoors?

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Love Outdoors! An Outdoor Literacy Activity

15 February 2012
Love Outdoor Play

Tanka poetry has an elements of nature and strong emotions.

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Not a Stick! Making Sense of Metaphors

28 January 2012
Not a stick

Sticks can can help children develop their imagination through the use of metaphor.

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