The outdoor area provides young children with one of the best possible environments in which to learn. Any adult who has watched children playing in a well-planned and well-resourced outdoor area with involved adults will have observed the joy and excitement they experience as they learn new skills and make fresh discoveries.
“the best kept classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky” Margaret McMillan (c1925) Nursery Schools and the Pre-school Child NSA Publication
WHY DEVELOP OUTDOOR PLAY?
It allows and encourages children to relive their experiences through their most natural channel – movement.
Movement is one of the four vehicles through which children can learn. The others are play, talk and sensory experiences.
· It provides access to space to nurture mind body growth.
· Physical development is the pre-requisite for the children’s growth.
· enhances the development of motor skills (gross and fine);
· develops co-ordination, balance and body awareness;
· keeps the body, heart and other organs healthy;
· Develops a life-long good habit of daily exercise.
It provides the opportunity for assessed risky freedom, where children can play and socialise freely and use their own imagination and initiative.
• All the areas of learning can be achieved outside while the children’s long-term social, emotional and mental health are being enhanced.
• Exercise can affect emotions allowing for relaxation and calmness and a heightened sense of wellbeing (Armstrong 1996).
Young children’s basic need for well-being and involvement, and their urge to explore and make sense of the world, is developed through high quality play in an outdoor environment.
Why do children in Early Years need free access to the outside?
- Accurate assessment – Children act differently outside and therefore you may only get accurate observations when observing outside.
- Healthy body and brains – There is more space to move, fresh air, vitamin D, peace, and mindfulness all things children need to develop and grow.
- Increased Self-Esteem – Outdoor play gives children new skills; raises their self-esteem, develops their divergent thinking skills and collaborative skills. These skills are an excellent basis for classroom learning.
- Characteristics of Effective Learning –They are able to play and explore, learn actively, develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.
- Awe and Wonder – There is a sense of freedom that Children feel outside because they feel like they are in charge of what they do outside. There are things that children will discover outside that cannot be discovered inside sparking awe and wonder.
- Access to outside is part of the curriculum – The reasons above are why the Statutory Framework (2017) states “Providers must provide access to an outdoor area or if this is not possible that outdoor activities are planned and taken on a daily basis”.