outstanding outdoor spaces

Planning the very best outside space for Early Years

25 August 2017

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We don’t need to tell you that, according to recent studies, children are playing less and less outdoors in parks, wooded areas and fields. It seems that a combination of parents’ fears, a lack of green space and the popularity of digital technology all contribute to children ‘staying indoors’ from an early age.  Here at Playforce we think this is a big shame. Anyone that works with Early Years knows the positive effect active play can have on a young child’s physical and emotional development.  In fact, most Early Years practitioners consider it a vital part of establishing the right practices for later on in life.

So, what do you need to include in your outdoor space to help Early Years children get the best, most active learning and developmental experience? Let’s use the Seven Areas of Learning as our guide and take them each in turn:

1. Personal, social and emotional development

Outdoor play is hugely important to nurturing a child’s self-esteem and their relationships with other children. When children take part in unstructured play outside, it allows them to discover what poses danger and what doesn’t. This can help them learn to take calculated risks (like balancing on one of our scrambler sets) which boost their self-confidence. Play that involves teamwork is also an excellent way to help children build friendships and learn how to share. Our den making set promotes team building and planning, alongside hours of fun and imaginative play. 

2. Communication and language 

Research shows that children use five times as many words when they play outdoors compared to indoors. When children are playing outside they’re exposed to a whole range of new experiences, which they often love to talk about. And the more things they discover, the more vocabulary and communication skills they’ll learn. It’s important to encourage children to talk to each other as well, to help them develop listening skills. The circle time chair and seats are a great way of encouraging communication and creativity among children, outdoors, as well as introducing them to some of the story time activities they’ll experience when they go up to ‘big school’.

3. Physical development

We’re always surprised at just how much energy children seem to have, so channelling this natural enthusiasm is really important. As environment secretary Liz Truss said, “Our children should be climbing trees, not the walls.” Open spaces help children to feel less constrained, which means they’ve got the freedom to run around, explore the environment and let loose. And the more active children are, the better. All this exercise will help to combat childhood obesity and develop a wide range of skills, like hand-eye coordination, strength and balance. After all, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Outdoor play equipment like the Basic Nursery Tower is a fantastic way of showing children the fun of active outdoor play, whilst providing physical challenges perfect for young children.  

4. Literacy

With more and more of our lives becoming digital or online, it’s important for children to develop excellent reading and writing skills. But aside from the more obvious applications, learning to read and write opens up a whole new world of imagination for children, and helps promote creativity and concentration.  Children often stumble when first learning these skills, though, if the process doesn’t start before they reach the school classroom. The best kind of learning is when you’re having so much fun that you don’t realise it, so taking literacy outside with a story time lawn or animal drawing board can be a great way of keeping literacy exciting.

5. Mathematics

Numbers are everywhere, and with more technology to do things for us we’re all getting lazier at doing maths. But maths helps to develop so many more skills than just adding, like logic, analysis and reasoning. Children can start to learn these skills from a very early age and we’ve got loads of resources like numbers and shapes tables to help kids take their maths out of the classroom. 

6. Understanding the world 

Sustainability is becoming more important as we become aware of the impact that we have on the environment.  It can sometimes be hard to help little children understand their own impact on the world, as well as helping them to learn to love the natural environment. Our range of planters are perfect for teaching children about where their food comes whilst keeping them active.  

7. Expressive arts and design

Children are naturally creative and inquisitive… we don’t need to tell you that.  The challenge is in making sure we’re feeding their imaginations. We’ve got a huge range of equipment to help children to explore mark making and drawing, from an early age, including our animal weaving and drawing board. 

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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