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Making the Most of the Outdoor Classroom

May 21, 2024
4 minute read

Jo Partridge, The Early Years Company, Trainer & Coach, Wolverhampton & Walsall

I was taking five after several visits out to settings that day, when  a reminder regarding the National Outdoor Classroom Day – 23rd May  popped up. Got me thinking.

As someone deeply passionate about nurturing young minds, I couldn't help but reflect on the transformative power of nature in early learning. However, I also couldn't ignore the reality that not all nurseries have the luxury of expansive outdoor spaces or enjoy perfect weather conditions year-round.  I have the privilege of seeing many settings and always enjoy the diversity of what they offer.  However sometimes for a variety of reasons, the outdoor environment is overlooked as an add on.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that every nursery, regardless of its limitations, can embrace the magic of outdoor learning. So, here are three simple tips to help nurseries make the most of the outdoor classroom, rain or shine, even when outdoor space is limited.

Get Creative with Outdoor Spaces

While not every nursery may have a sprawling outdoor area, there are countless ways to maximize whatever space is available. Whether it's a tiny courtyard, a patch of grass, or a nearby park, think creatively about how to incorporate outdoor elements into daily activities. Set up a mini-garden with potted plants, create a nature-inspired sensory corner, or organize outdoor picnics and story time sessions. By thinking outside the box, nurseries can turn even the smallest outdoor spaces into vibrant learning environments that spark curiosity and imagination, while also fostering physical development through active play. 

  • Sensory Exploration: Take an inventory of your outdoor space. How many senses does it stimulate? You might be surprised by the textures, sounds, and sights waiting to be discovered!
  • Think small, dream big: Create a miniature garden with colourful pots, build a sensory corner with natural materials like pinecones and leaves, or hold picnics and story time sessions under the open sky. Every bit counts!

Bring the Outdoors Inside

On days when the weather is less than cooperative, don't let that dampen the spirit of outdoor exploration. Instead, bring the outdoors inside by adapting outdoor activities for indoor play.  However maybe we need to reflect on this a little more. Can we plan ahead – what do we need to ensure the children go outside when wet? What needs to be in place? How do staff feel, are they supportive and prepared? Right clothes for the weather? Are staff on board with this?

Cultivate a Love for Nature

Finally, instil a deep appreciation for the outdoors in children from an early age. Incorporate nature-themed activities into the curriculum, such as nature walks, outdoor art projects, and wildlife observations. Encourage children to explore the natural world through books, videos, and online resources. It is also  a great way to support parent partnership.  Often local councils have initiatives for encouraging play outside, alongside lots of great parks and nature reserves.  By fostering a love for nature, nurseries can inspire a lifelong connection to the outdoors, nurturing environmentally-conscious and curious young learners who are eager to explore and discover the world around them.

In conclusion, while not every nursery may have access to large outdoor areas or enjoy ideal weather conditions, there are still countless ways to embrace the wonders of outdoor learning. By getting creative with outdoor spaces, bringing the outdoors inside, and cultivating a love for nature, nurseries can provide children with enriching experiences that promote holistic development and instill a lifelong love of the natural world. So, let's raise our cups to the magic of the outdoor classroom, rain or shine, and watch as young minds blossom and grow!

Let's raise a trowel to the outside classroom!

If you would like further support to develop your outdoor classroom, you might like our Outdoor Environment training to reflect on:

  • Observation, assessment and documentation.
  • How to plan and organise high quality outdoor areas Review links to theory and pedagogy in practice.
  • How to implement child led initiatives in outdoor provision.
  • Discuss and consider security, storage, resources or materials either fixed or transitional.
  • How to promote health and safety aspects including how we support and develop opportunities for risky play.

Contact us to discuss your training needs here.

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