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Outdoor construction play for early years

6 Jan 2022 | Inspirational Activity Ideas, Nursery and Early Years

A very popular theme that the children in my class show a keen interest in is construction play. I set up an outdoor construction area featuring real mini bricks, foam bricks, road pieces, tools and other related items. It is an instant hit and has many benefits for developing a wide range of skills.

When building and designing in the outdoor construction area, the children will collaborate with their peers. This increases their creative thinking and enables them to cooperate with each other, enhancing their social and emotional skills too.

Introducing mathematical concepts 

Mathematical concepts occur naturally through play as the children explore the range of bricks, tape measures, spirit levels, wheelbarrow etc… Lifting the real bricks, stacking and reaching up high builds up core strength as well as hand-eye coordination.

When playing, children develop their problem-solving skills especially when building and stacking. They may need to find a solution to the problems that arise and keep trying. Perseverance is a skill that can transfer into other areas of learning.

Mathematical concepts covered in brick play:

  • Measuring
  • Counting
  • Estimation
  • Weight
  • Balance
  • Shape
  • Symmetry

Inspiring imagination 

As the children access the role play resources (tool belt, hats, tools etc…) their imagination can run free. Some of the creations I have seen so far are a dragon guarded castle, a fairground and a three bear’s cottage. Children can build whatever they can dream and the loose parts act as a way to inspire imagination and creativity. As the children begin to see what they can create, their self esteem and confidence begins to grow.

Developing further skills

Construction play lends itself to natural mark making as children create their own plans and designs or provide signs for their buildings. Adding in some large clipboards with paper alongside the provision allows children to independently mark make within their play.

The new vocabulary and language that children learn in when immersed in construction can be scaffolded by the adults around them. Using the vocabulary fans from Hope Education will help too!

New vocabulary that can be introduced naturally:


  • Fragile
  • Build
  • Stack
  • Balance
  • Cement
  • Design
  • Construct
  • Hammer
  • Join

This article was kindly written by our Brand Rep Katie Taylor, an EYFS teacher & forest school leader. She also owns the inspirational Instagram account @earlyyearsoutdoorwhich has achieved over 145k followers and ever growing.

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