This article has been written by early years consultant, Anne Rodgers, from ATR Consultancy. What can children learn and experience outdoors? Children can learn and experience…
Maximising Your Outdoor Learning Space
This article has been written by OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ Childminders, Chloe Webster & Bridgit Brown, from Pebbles Childcare.
As a home-based childcare provision, we are not blessed with significant amounts of space, and similarly, a large sum of money to put into buying a range of outdoor resources that larger settings benefit from. However, we believe and are huge advocates of utilising the space we have and using a diverse range of equipment and resources in order to meet the learning and development needs of the children in our care.
We do this by focusing on the children’s current interests and how we can use and manipulate resources we already possess in order to provide a stimulating yet challenging and beneficial outdoor learning environment for all of our children. By carefully spending our small budget on key garden equipment, such as a tuff spot, water channel stands and magnifying glasses, we can utilise this equipment together with other natural and free resources to set up our outdoor environment.
For example, many of our children are now coming up to the age where they are beginning to show an interest in challenging themselves physically, and in the absence of trees to climb or a climbing frame, we looked at how we could provide challenge and risk whilst encouraging the children to use their bodies in a range of ways. And so, we provided the children with long planks of wood, of varying thickness and challenged them to balance, walk along in different steps and directions as well as incorporating these planks of wood into an obstacle course that we provided using chalks on the floor; drawing different shapes/patterns for the children to follow and move along in different ways.
Similarly, we were keen to provide children with opportunities to use not only gross-motor skills in the outdoor area but their fine motor skills too. In order to do this, we provided the children with a tuff spot full of different herbs with different scents, provide the children with scissors, rocks and paper; thus creating a stimulating sensory experience that not only promotes and develops fine motor skills, but also incorporates mark making and exploration too – this is one of our most popular and beneficial learning opportunities which engages the children for extended periods of time.
Children are also able to explore risk whilst promoting their fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination through our woodwork/construction activities using real tools and off cuts of wood, where children are supported in using a range of tools within a safe environment to create structures and use the tools safely.
We also use paintbrushes and buckets of water to encourage mark-making on the floor and the door of our large garage, whilst also offering a traditional chalkboard and chalks. Particularly in the warmer weather, we like to create spaces for the children to relax and unwind out of the sun and a pop-up tent full of books and cushions is perfect for this and the children frequently retreat to, to look at books independently or share stories together.
Our mud kitchen provides children with endless opportunities for not only imaginative play, turn-taking and language development, but also for mathematical language and learning as they discuss quantities, measure liquids and discuss the shapes and properties of their creations. Whilst our digging and growing area, allows children not only the responsibility of planting and tending to their own plants and vegetables, the mathematical opportunities for who’s plant has grown the most, as well as the physical exertion of digging holes but also holds the benefits of allowing the children to develop their understanding of growth, decay and changes over time.
Our outdoor space changes daily to meet the children’s learning and development needs and interests whilst also incorporating and providing an array of ‘loose parts’ and re-usable and flexible resources that the children can use and develop in their play freely.
Chloe and Bridgit are OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ Childminders in Worthing, West Sussex, offering a professional and individual service for families and their children aged 0-8yrs.
Explore the Early Years Resources Childminders Selection for Outdoor Play, Active Play and Sand & Water Play Resources to enhance your outdoor learning area.