I have been thinking about this and reading up on it for some weeks now and have today pulled together some initial lists and quotes (mainly from the EYFS). I have cut them out and added them to a poster that I am making, with cutouts from magazines of equipment that I would like to have in the garden. I'm going to put it up and ask the parents to contribute to the poster with their ideas about what is important to them about outdoors, what resources they would like to see out there, what their children enjoy outdoors at home, and any other ideas they may have. I am hoping to be able to get the parents on board by giving them a wish list of 'found items' that would enhance the outside and see what they can ferret out for us to use!
Effective Practice (EYFS, 2008)
o Encourage children to help plan the layout
o Encourage children to contribute to keeping the area tidy
o Ensure that children can be outdoors daily all year round
o Help children to understand how to behave outdoors by talking about personal safety, risks and the safety of others.
o Link the indoors and outdoors so that children can move freely between them.
Challenges to tackle (EYFS, 2008)
o Promoting the value and importance of the outdoors to parents and other professionals.
o Meeting the needs of children of different ages in a shared outdoor space.
o Reflecting learning outdoors in observations and planning.
What the EYFS (2008) says about children being outdoors:
“Being outdoors has a positive impact on children’s sense of well-being and helps all aspects of children’s development”
“Being outdoors offers opportunities for doing things in different ways and on different scales than when indoors”
“It gives children first hand contact with weather, seasons and the natural world”
“Outdoor environments offer children freedom to explore, use their senses, and be physically active and exuberant”
“Children can learn to make decisions, solve problems and grow in confidence in their own abilities outdoors and they need plenty of time to investigate their outdoor environment purposefully”
“Outdoors, children can hear and respond to a different range of sounds, beginning to recognise and distinguish between noises in the outdoor environment”
“Outdoor learning complements indoor learning and is equally important. Play and learning that flow seamlessly between indoors and outdoors enable children to make the most of resources and materials available to them and develop their ideas without unnecessary interruption”
“Provide children with access to environments that stimulate their need to explore and which safely challenge them. The aim is to develop their risk awareness and an understanding of their own abilities as necessary life skills”
Developing the Outdoor Space
1. Evaluate where we are now.
2. Vision Planning – where do we want to be??
3. Action Planning – How can we get there??
4. Implementation – making the changes!
Resources and Play Materials
1. Open-ended and non-prescriptive, and can be used in imaginative ways that fit the children’s play, rather than dictating the play.
2. Different sized and shaped logs, poles, sticks and wood shapes.
3. Blocks, crates and tyres.
4. Natural items: sand, water, leaves, stones, bark, earth, mud, clay, shells, seeds.
5. Ropes and strings of different thickness and length.
6. Different colours, textures and sizes of fabric, cloths and tarpaulins.
7. Clothes pegs.
9. Baskets, bags, buckets, containers,
10. Pipes of different shapes and lengths.
11. Chalks, charcoal, crayons, pens, pencils, brushes with water, paints, large paper and fabric, rollers.
12. Tools for digging, planting and caring for plants.
13. Tools and benches for woodworking.
14. Nets, bug pots, magnifiers, binoculars, trays, tanks.
Key Features to Plan For
1. Access and security.
2. Shelter and shade.
3. Appropriate clothing.
4. Appropriate storage.
5. Variety of surfaces.
6. The four elements.
7. Natural spaces.
8. Growing spaces.
9. Active spaces.
10. Reflective spaces.
11. Creative spaces.
12. Social spaces.
13. Offsite locations.
Plenty of food for thought here.... I will post about how I tackle each area over the next couple of weeks. this is part of my ongoing review of 'The Learning Environment' section of the EYFS. It has taken me, and some members of the childminding group on quite a journey so far; because the learning environment covers indoor, outdoor and emotional environment, there is a lot to consider, reflected by recent posts about supporting emotional development, ICT and others. You might be interested to read the toolkit that has helped me review the outdoors, to be found on this post here!