Outdoor learning is of equal importance to indoors in meeting the needs of both the old and the
new EYFS frameworks, so we’ve pulled together some of our customers’ frequently asked questions to help you to make sure your outdoor area is up to scratch!
Our nursery outdoor space is quite small. How can we ensure we cover all of the required learning outcomes in such a small space?
First things first, maximise the space you have by ensuring all of it can be accessed all year round, by using all weather surfacing and introducing some shelter and shade. Then consider adding a few key pieces of fixed equipment that are not too prescriptive. For example, a hump back bridge and tunnel encourages active play as the children run up and down and through the tunnel, and also inspires imaginative games. You can then use loose parts and wheeled toys alongside this equipment to link to different topics or initiate different activities. For ideas about how to do this, have a look at our Poddely Sets – they can help you to initiate learning in all areas of the EYFS and they even come complete with storage!
We’d like to encourage more active play. What is the best way to do this?
After a fantastic summer of sport, and the recent headlines about the level of childhood obesity in the UK, we are all aware of the need to inspire children to live healthy, active lives. However children are naturally active. They enjoy crawling, running and jumping, throwing, all the time testing their bodies and learning about the world around them. As in the previous question, ensuring access is possible all year round is an important step in encouraging active play – after all, where better than outdoors in the fresh air. Otherwise, a variety of different resources and play equipment that can be adapted every day will keep children moving. Creating these kinds of opportunities, and the support of an enthusiastic team of practitioners is all you need.
Whether you’d like to focus on physical development, communication skills, imagination or discovery, ask you outdoor equipment supplier to design something based around these outcomes and to show you examples of similar projects.
Storage is a massive problem at our nursery. What options are available?
There are a few ways you can store the equipment used in your outdoor space. For those larger items such as bikes and trikes a lockable shed or Play Store is your best bet. If space is limited, look for storage that is also combined with other things. For example, at Playforce we offer a storage bench, perfect for keeping smaller items such as balls and beanbags safe. If a fixed storage option is not appropriate, look for equipment that comes with its own portable storage solution, such as Poddely.
How can I encourage my staff to be more enthusiastic about outdoor learning?
There are numerous benefits to children learning outdoors, from simply enjoying the fresh air, to experimenting on a larger scale, learning in an active way and sometimes just making a bit of a mess. However, aside from training staff to recognise these benefits and learning outcomes, you can go a long way by ensuring the outdoor environment is a comfortable place to be. In the UK we’re not always blessed with good weather, and so making sure that staff have suitable clothing and footwear can make all the difference – we’re not suggesting puddle suits for adults, but if staff don’t have good waterproofs they are unlikely to want to venture out in the rain! It is also important to ensure all of the staff are confident in using the different resources and equipment available. It may be worth asking your supplier about available training for using new equipment or consider holding a group training session outdoors so staff can simply have a go, ask any questions and learn from each other.
What about safety?
There are lots of things you can do to ensure the area is safe for children to play. Using good quality equipment will go a long way in minimising minor scrapes, and will ensure your outdoor space stands the test of time, so look for good quality materials, rounded edges, and for fixed equipment, installations adhering to the BS EN 1176 and BS EN 1177 standards. The design of the space should also ensure the different areas are accessible to all children. It sounds obvious, but children are much smaller than adults and risks are increased if children have to stretch themselves too far in order to reach resources. If you have fixed equipment or shelters, it is also worth arranging for a qualified RPII inspector to check the outdoor space annually to ensure any maintenance issues are dealt with. Finally, try to complete risk assessments of the area to enable rather than restrict experiences – children learn by testing their knowledge and capabilities, so a managed level of risk is no bad thing!