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under5s - The Outdoor Enviroment

The Outdoor Enviroment is wonderful for the under 5's to explore - the warmer days and sunshine motivate us to get out side. Just being outdoors is often the only motivation some children need to explore the fresh air and discover what their bodies can do - some children do not have an outdoor space at home, and therefore really benefit and enjoy the space and freedom an outdoor play area can offer.

It is important to remember to use the outdoor enviroment whatever the weather, if you can - it is as much fun to young children to jump in puddles on a wet day, to feel the snow and frost on a cold day and to feel the wind through their hair on a windy day as it is to be outside on a warm, sunny day - the best way to learn about the weather and seasons is to experience it for themselves. 

Can children learn outside - of course they can - learning in the Foundation Stage can take place anywhere! In fact Ofsted are actively looking for evidence that you provide outdoor provision regualrily for children if you are working in a Early Years Setting.

One of the factors often holding back the use of the outside area is the expense, but there are lots of opportunties to offer as learning experiences to children, that are relatively inexpensive and quick and easy to use. To start your ideas flowing - I have listed a few below...
Pots of water and Paint brushes
Send the children outside with this simple resource and encourage them to make marks - painting patterns, their names, and shapes on the ground or fence. They can experiment freely and then watch and learn as it evapourates away in the sunshine. Their imaginations developes as they become builders and decorators, styling the outdoors in their unique way.
Story telling
Books are wonderful resources and can be taken anywhere - reading a story under the shade of a tree, or on a rug in the garden, can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Have you ever encouraged the children to just stop and listen - there are so many sounds you can hear and can talk about
- the birds singing, you could be inspired to make your own music, 
- the bees buzzing could lead on to a chat about how honey is made or what they had for breakfast,
- a passing helicopter or ambulance makes a different sound - can they guess what it is they are listening too ?
Outdoor Toys
A range of balls, bats, ride on toys, are great fun to play with but if your supplies are limited how about providing ropes to skip with, planks of wood to balance along, guttering to role balls along or pour water from one container to another, chalk marks on the ground to follow or drawn as targets on a wall.
A favourie outdoor toy for us is an old two man tent - it provides all sort of imaginative scenarios as the children take a holiday, cook a bbq and share their holiday experience with others - ask around as you never know who may have one hidden away in their loft.
Sand and Water Play
Together or singularly - offer children the opportunity to discover about its properties, experiment with volume by adding different size containers, learn how to pour, manipulate equipment and by adding small world toys - such as boats, dinasaurs, and bugs, provide an opportunity for imaginative play and lots of descriptive language. Expensive equipment is not needed - a washing up bowl, with water in, is adequate for one or two children, and is great for washing small toys and dolls clothes.
Cardboard Boxes
A range of cardboard boxes can really inspire the children's construction skills - a big one could become a house or a space rocket and you could encourage the children to decorate it. Several could be used to build a den, a hideaway or even just a tunnel.
Bubble mixture is wonderful, a favourite from my childhood and still a favourite today - you can encourage the children to practise blowing to see who can make the biggest bubble, or the most bubbles and then you can chase after them and catch them. Making them aware of the space they are in.
By planting seeds, preparing the soil, harvesting the crop, the children have the opportunity to learn first hand about growing - a story about Jack in the Beanstalk could inspire you to plant some beans, observe the difference as they grow and then to harvest the crop and eat it together.
These can be easily performed outside and often benefit from the extra space - challenge the children to hop to the tree, jump to the bench and walk backwards to the door. NO equipment is needed just a wealth of ideas.
'Here we go round the Mulberry bush' could be sung aroung a real tree, the 'Farmer' could have a really large den, and the cows could really be in the meadow picking buttercups - if you had some growing nearby! By utilising the enviroment you can bring real meaning to the songs.
Indoor Toys
Indoor toys can easily be taken outside - dolls and teddy bears could go outside with a picnic of toy food, large construction materials could be used to build bigger more inspiring objects, dressing up costumes could go outside to allow firefighers and police officers to put out fires and to stop traffic with the ride on toys - the list is endless.

As well as your immediate outdoor environment - don't forget you may be lucky enough to explore further afield - visit the forest, the park, the beach, the library, the shops, your local area and discover the potential learning experiences that are on offer there too.

Helen Renouf
Accedited Early Years Provider


under5s - The Outdoor Enviroment
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