Outdoor Learning Benefits for Early Years

outdoor play eyfs

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 many things in the outdoor environment and being outdoors helps them to establish a healthy and active lifestyle. It offers children opportunities to use their bodies physically by engaging in activity with freedom of movement. This will help them to become confident in their abilities and support those children who learn best when outdoors or through activity and movement.

Children will learn to run, climb, pedal, balance, throw, dig, grow, nurture, investigate, explore, discover, invent, experiment, talk, interact, make friends, create, construct, make music, express themselves, hide, relax, imagine, dream, reflect, have responsibility, be independent, collaborate, be excited, energetic, adventurous, noisy, tell stories, find patterns, make marks and take risks. They will experience changes in the weather, nature and those who live in it such as mini beasts and animals. They will be more informed about the seasonal changes that occur and how nature affects the environment.

Key Messages for Outdoor Play

The ‘EYFS Effective Practice: Outdoor Learning’ claims that the central messages for outdoor play are:

  • The outdoor environment has unique characteristics and features
  • Outdoor learning has equal value to indoor learning
  • Outdoor learning has a positive impact on the children’s well- being and development
  • Children need the support of attentive and engaged adults who are enthusiastic about the outdoors and understand the importance of outdoor learning
  • Outdoor learning is enhanced by an environment that is richly resourced with play materials that can be adapted and used in different ways
  • An approach to outdoor learning that considers experiences rather than equipment places children at the centre of the provision being made

For some children, they are more suited to learning about the curriculum in the outside world as it offers them more freedom of activity and space than the classroom does. Projects can be explored on a much larger scale when presented outside.

Each setting or placement where children are cared for will have differing availability of outside spaces and much has to be considered. Make an assessment of the outside area to see how safe it is. Children can access all areas of learning in the outdoor environment and should be at the centre of the process of planning for activities and experiences.

When planning for play outdoors, practitioners need to consider the needs of the children and offer sufficient ways to meet these needs. Children can be empowered to plan for their own experiences within the outdoor environment where possible and given choices and discover their own solutions. They should be allowed time to play and develop at their own pace and in their own way. Some activities may need to be adult led and some child led, adults should be sensitive to the child’s needs and never try to control their play as long as it is within safe and acceptable boundaries.

Every child has a right to a play environment which stimulates and provides opportunities for risk taking and one which encourages independence and helps build self-esteem through activities and physical expression. All children should be enabled to access the outdoor environment regardless of their ability or disability and activities promoted for all to participate in.


About Anne Rodgers

Anne Rodgers is an Early Years Consultant (ATR Consultancy) and Writer. Anne has 36 years’ experience of working in the childcare and education sector – including training practitioners, managing numerous settings over the years and writing articles for Early Years Educator and the CACHE Alumni website.

Further Reading

Rodgers, A. (2016). Outdoor Play in the Early Years – Daisy Chain Educational Publishers.

Outdoor Learning Resources

Early Years Resources stock an extensive range of Outdoor Learning Resources and Outdoor Play Equipment to enhance a child’s development and learning in primary schools, nurseries, childminder settings and playgroups.

outdoor play resources

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