outstanding outdoor spaces

Helping children to prepare for school with outdoor play

25 August 2017

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In our last blog we talked about how to create the perfect outdoor space in your Early Years setting. Before children go on to ‘big school’ there can be a pressure on Early Years settings to make sure they’re properly prepared.  Of course, we’ve all read the reports suggesting that a third of children aren’t reception-ready when they turn up for their first day of school and we all know how scary first days can be.  Here at Playforce we want children to get the very best from their Early Years time and their progression, come September, into the Primary School system… and we believe that outdoor play can help them do just that. 

We’ve put together our recommendations for ways that Early Years settings can use outdoor time and play to prepare children for ‘moving up’ in September.

1. Literacy 

The papers keep telling us that significant numbers of children start reception with below-average reading and writing skills, which can have a big impact on their self-confidence. Literacy underpins the education process and it’s important to nurture literacy skills as early as possible. The better-prepared they are the less nervous they’ll be with their learning once they get to primary school.  We love schemes that take Early Years literacy outside. How about using a chalkboard to get children learning their letters?  Or why not put in some outdoor seating so you can take storytime outside? 

2. Speaking

As much as we might think of children as natural chatterboxes, there are still lots of children who enter the classroom with delayed speech and social skills. Children are naturally inquisitive and curious about the world, and they love to ask questions. It’s been shown that children use five times as many words when they’re outdoors than indoors, so taking learning outside is a great way to feed their imagination and get them chatting. And this will help to improve their literacy, too. Exploring the world gives children a broad range of new experiences, so they’ll be learning new words to describe what they’ve seen without even realising it. You can use your outdoor space in a variety of ways to support this.  Loose equipment is a great way to get children naming things… and our fruit and leaf whiteboard shapes are wonderful for getting little children started.

3. Listening and Understanding 

It’s often been said that we’ve got one mouth and two ears for a reason, so whilst getting children chatting is an important part of their development so is learning how to listen. Listening isn’t just about hearing someone or something, but also about children taking in and processing what they’ve heard. Listening to others is also an important part of developing empathy and reducing bullying, so it really does help everyone. A great way to develop this skill is with storytelling areas, where children can develop their own imaginations and learn to listen to others. Our maze seating encourages children to listen to each other in an engaging and stimulating environment… and our Story Teller Chair has been a favourite for Early Years settings for many years. 

4. Sharing and taking turns

Going into a classroom with 30 other children can be a challenge... That’s 30 children that they’re going to have to learn to share with – be it space, attention or toys. Helping children to learn to treat their peers fairly is important well beyond primary school (we don’t need to tell you that) and helps reduce bullying. Outdoor play equipment can be one of the best ways for promoting sharing among children, as well as helping other children to succeed. Not only will they have to share the equipment, but activities that promote teambuilding helps them develop their relationship with their classmates. Our award-winning Poddely scheme is made up of lots of individual parts and can be used for active play as well as sand and water and even creative drawing. It’s perfect for Early Years and getting children sharing as well as working together. And, of course, one of the best ways to get children active and sharing is with active play equipment like our Forest Scrambler or one of our Journey Trails… specially designed for little hands and feet.

5. Counting Skills 

Familiarizing small children with shapes and numbers is an important step in helping them understand the outside world, and will prepare them for all the sums they’ll be doing once they get to big school.  One of the most popular products in our Ready to Play range is our Cork Block and Dowel Construction Set. Available in large or starter sets it’s a great way of getting children to count the pieces.  And, if you have a little bit more space, why not use our Market Stall to get little children counting out items to sell or buy? 

We think that’s a great start for you… we’ll let you have another five ideas in our next article.

Here at Playforce we have over 20 years’ experience in advising Early Years settings on their outdoor space, as well as designing some award-winning products and ranges.  You can get some inspiration from our Early Years case studies here, or browse our full ‘ready to play’ range… did you know that you can still get delivery of products in this range over the summer holidays?  If you’d like a bit more advice, why not get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and help get your children active, learning and playing outdoors. 


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