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Statewide Culture 6

Using the Arkansas Outdoors as a Preschool Classroom


My husband and I have had the chance to travel different parts of the globe, but there is no place we love to adventure more than the sites and trails of Arkansas.

We used much of our social distancing time in 2020 to tackle some of our Arkansas Bucket list items and built a new list. I noticed that some of the development lessons for preschoolers that we had been working on at home expanded as we adventured the outdoors throughout Arkansas.

It’s spring, and at my house, we all have the fever to get outside and play as much as possible. And, whether you are homeschooling children, navigating a hybrid or work from home experience, or stay-at-home parent developing your preschool curriculum, there are HUGE benefits from taking the learning outdoors. 2020 showed us that our mental health increases significantly through exposure to sunshine and vitamin D, experiencing nature through all our senses, getting outside and moving, and changing our environment throughout the day.

Spring has sprung, and the wildflowers are in full bloom, it’s time to get outside!

Childhood Cognitive Development Milestones Gained while Exploring Arkansas

  • Colors
  • Shapes, sorting and comparing sizes
  • Numbers – identify and counting
  • Order of events
  • Developing stories about their surroundings

There is no better place than the outdoors to see and learn difference and variety when it comes to colors, shapes, sizes and found objects. For toddlers and preschoolers, they are putting shape and form to the world around them for the first time. Exploring outdoors gives a new variety to call out and recognize from their surroundings.

 Life Skills developed by Preschoolers while Adventuring Arkansas

  • Risk
  • Decision making & consequences of choices
  • Discovery and adventure
  • Creativity and imagination

At the toddler and preschool age, children are seeking the opportunity to experience independence and creative play. Their minds are starting to form and process consequences and move toward imagination on their own. It’s essential to listen to what they are saying and navigate the conversation and experience to let them dream and imagine. Slow the process down, explore the environment through all their senses and lead the discussion narrative.

Survival Instincts Developed in Preschoolers While Walking Arkansas Trails

  • Safety
  • Navigation and map reading
  • Recycling and trash clean up
  • Following a path
  • Identifying wildlife and plants
  • Understanding time and following a pattern of events

Most of us are experiential learners. Getting outside and discovering the specific world of trails and camping allows children to experience a change from their typical safe home environment. Cliffs, signs, critters, and narrow paths might be new to a preschool-aged child. Still, through consistent exposure, they overcome the anxiety of newness and develop life skills to help in professional experiences and avoid dangerous situations for the rest of their lives.

Social Skills improved from Camping and Trail Walking in Arkansas

  • Independence – exploring on their own and independent play
  • Leadership
  • Friendship
  • Focus and intuition

Many childhood professionals would advocate that social skills are as essential as cognitive milestones. And future employers would tell you the soft skills of social interaction are the most significant workforce issue they currently face. Finding ways to creatively expose young children to groups and interacting with peers and adults holds long-term benefits.

Trails to Explore in Arkansas

With a 3-year-old boy in tow, we spent much of our time searching for a T-Rex in the woods, but Arkansas is known to hide dinosaurs, too!


Meet the

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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6 responses to “Using the Arkansas Outdoors as a Preschool Classroom”

  1. […] Using the Outdoors as a Preschool Classroom […]

  2. […] In our home, we try to use mornings for learning and afternoons for play. Of course, sometimes that gets flip-flopped and all mixed up. But, as it turns out, those tend to be the days that are talked about most, when we use everyday moments for education. […]

  3. […] Using Arkansas Outdoors as a Preschool Classroom […]

  4. […] The collection of artifacts is a great way to discover how mediums like history and art or science and technology cross each other for a grander experience. Our family had a chance to tour the exhibit this summer and use it as a learning experience for our preschooler. […]

  5. […] started using the farmland around her as a classroom with experiences in gardening, tree conservation and building for Gregory. “He is a great […]

  6. […] corner of Arkansas has spots to learn. You can use the outdoors as a classroom, visit a regional museum and learn about your roots, or spot a unique experience that will make […]

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