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The Benefits Of Outdoor Play

I think anyone who has been watching Busy Bodies over the last few years will have a noticed a large shift towards outdoor play and spending more times outdoors in the garden area. I have always been a firm believer in the importance of people playing, learning and exploring outside and we are now able to do that a lot of the time at Busy Bodies.

Since January, with the new expanded outdoor space we have been able to step up this approach and we are already almost an “Outdoor Kindergarten”. The children have the opportunity to be outside for the vast majority of the day and as the weather improves we will start offering snack time and lunch times outside as well. We have the well qualified, caring staff team and a high ratio of adults to children which means that if your child is inside or outside they are getting the same learning opportunities.

How We Are Different

Where we would always differ from traditional Outdoor Kindergartens is that the door will always be open. We will not all be outside or all be inside but the children will have the choice based on their interests and where they feel happiest. With this approach each individual child will be in their optimal position to learn, play and build connections with their friends. Some children prefer to stay inside and enjoy all the activities on offer inside whilst other children prefer being outside and all the opportunities outside. None of these options is right or wrong and every human being is different. We are respectful of this fact and that is why we allow children to make the choice so that they can feel comfortable, happy and therefore more likely to learn and develop. Development and learning happens everywhere at every moment of the day. Mark making can be equally done with a pencil inside as it can be done outside with a stick in the mud. Counting, shapes, team work, developing resilience or empathy, building self esteem and every other area of development you can think of can be achieved both inside and outside. These goals will be more likely to be achieved though if your child feels happy, confident, safe and cared for. That is why we have created the environment we have.

5 Benefits for Being Outside

Encourages an Active Lifestyle

Children who learn to play outdoors are much more likely to continue to enjoy outdoor activities such as walking, running and cycling as they get older. Given the number of gadgets and new technology available to us all, outdoor play is an extremely important factor in combatting an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

In the new area we are always running, digging, climbing, balancing, dancing and trying to fly like dinosaurs. The size of the space encourages big movements and expressive freedom. These big movements are always good for our gross motor development, spatial awareness, hand eye co-ordination and much much more.

We want children to grow up to understand that being outside offers a wealth of opportunities and that physical movement and being active is fun.

Appreciation of Nature and the Environment

Learning in an outdoor environment allows children to interact with the elements around us and helps them to gain an understanding of the world we live in. They can experience animals in their own surroundings and learn about their habitats and lifecycles.

We have already celebrating bird week and the children have really enjoyed exploring the different birds we could find. It was a very proud moment for me when one of the children ran over to me to say “James….. look…… the bird with the yellow belly” when we saw a Blue Tit for the first time. The area is full of lovely wildlife, including our sleeping hedgehogs. The hedgehogs have provided us with a lovely opportunity to discuss how we share this environment with animals and how we must be respectful of their needs and spaces.

We plan to continue to develop the area more and create a Vegetable and Fruit patch. It would be my dream to one day be able to collect Berries, Apples, Strawberries, etc from the garden to then eat at snack time. What an experience that would be for the children.

We want children to grow up with a deep appreciation for nature in all of its wonder.

Develops Social Skills

Indoor spaces can often feel overcrowded to children and naturally, they may feel intimated in this type of environment. More space outdoors can help children to join in and ‘come out of their shells’. Giving children outdoor learning experiences offers them a chance to talk about what they have done with their friends, teachers and parents.

We have already noticed a lot more team work and language being used in the new space. Having the space to explore ideas and be as loud or as quiet as you like is a big factor in this. The staff team are also excellent at enhancing play ideas, encouraging collaboration between children and are always setting a good role model in regards to social interactions and caring for others.

We want children to grow up to be socially aware of others, empathic and understand the value of connecting with others.

Encourages Independence

The extra space offered by being outdoors will give children the sense of freedom to make discoveries by themselves. They can develop their own ideas or create games and activities to take part in with their friends without feeling like they’re being directly supervised. They’ll begin to understand what they can do by themselves and develop a ‘can do‘ attitude, which will act as a solid foundation for future learning.

Building bridges and ramps is a perfect example of this. Some children are very skilled at doing these things independently and then it is up to us as caring adults to know when to step in and help and when to stand back and allow them to make learning decisions for themselves.

Also the simple act of selecting your own welly boots, putting them on and your coat every time you go in and out is a great example of how children are developing independence and skills.

We want children to grow up to be as independent as possible but understand it is always ok to ask for help and you are never to far away from support when you need it.

Understanding Risk

Being outdoors provides children with more opportunities to experience risk-taking. They have the chance to take part in tasks on a much bigger scale and complete them in ways they might not when they’re indoors. They can learn to make calculated decisions such as ‘should I jump off this log?’ or ‘is that bridge safe?’

I call them “safe risks” as adults are always on hand to assess the danger and are very experienced in knowing when to step in and when to stand back. Some things you have to learn by doing them. We can tell children that the pipe is not strong enough for them to walk on but by stepping on it and discovering that you a) do not hurt yourself and b) have learnt that trying is the first step in learning. When we take away these opportunities by telling we deny the children the opportunity to discover things for themselves which is way more important.

We want children to grow up to face the challenges the world will throw at them with confidence. We want them to be able to assess risks and understand how to keep themselves safe.

The new outdoor area has been a huge success and we have received lots of emails from other professionals to come and see what we are doing and take ideas back to their nursery. The fact that the area was an unused space that has now found a fantastic use is great. The fact that I only spent £500 creating the whole space is also good and shows other nurseries that you do not have to spend a lot of money to add a lot.

The outdoor space will continue to develop and evolve, as will the whole of Busy Bodies. We have big plans for the area and we are being led by the ideas and suggestions of the children as we go.

There are so many benefits to being outside and I am sure I have missed some from this list. As I have said though not every child likes spending lots of time outside and that is equally fine and respected. We are all different, special and all perfect in our own ways. It is our job as Early Years Professionals to encourage each and every child and person involved in Busy Bodies to reach their own unique full potential. The new outdoor area is definitely helping us to reach this goal.

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