Outdoor learning is a key element of the EYFS framework and early years provisions must provide access to an outside play area wherever possible.
If it is not possible, the EYFS states that providers should ensure that outdoor activities are planned and taken on a daily basis unless circumstances make this inappropriate, eg unsafe weather conditions.
It is recognised that outdoor learning has equal value to indoor learning and has a positive impact on children’s wellbeing and development. However, every outdoor space will be different and will have limitations that need to be worked within. Provisions need to consider the spaces available to them and how to make the most of them within the resources available.
Good outdoor provision does not rely on expensive equipment:
an approach to outdoor learning that considers experiences rather than equipment and supports development in all areas of the curriculum is the most valuable.
There are key areas to consider when developing outdoor play provision:
- The outdoor play provision needs to be appropriate for the age and development of all the children so that they can have suitable access to it and can interact within it.
- It must be secure, clean and free from hazards.
- There need to be well-organised areas and resources, both natural and manufactured, which are accessible by the children.
- There should be opportunities for a range of activities such as active play, role play, paint mixing, music making, growing plants, insect jars, mark-making, reading stories, or exploring the properties of materials such as clay, sand or water.
- There should be opportunities for challenge or supervised risk-taking.
- A variety of surfaces and low-level slopes add interest and opportunities for play.
- Ideally children should have the opportunity to move freely between the indoor and outdoor environment.
- The outdoor space needs to offer shade and shelter, and children should have opportunities to experience different weather, changing seasons and the passing of time.
Provided appropriate risk assessments are made, public spaces such as parks can be used to extend and support the learning environment for young children. Taking advantage of the local area in this way is useful for all provisions but especially those in urban areas that do not have a dedicated outdoor space.
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