G is for Great Outdoors – The ABC of Early Years Education
Outdoor play is all about creating spaces and opportunities for children to play.
It’s an incredibly important element of early years practice, as it’s essential for human development and wellbeing.
We have to remember that we are animals, and animals play outdoors to test boundaries, develop their neurobiology, and build a connection with nature.
As early years professionals, we need to value outdoor space and let children discover this through nature pedagogy.
At its most basic level, this involves making the outdoors accessible to children.
If this isn’t possible at your setting, think about where the nearest green area is, and set up a routine which involves visiting this place.
When the children are there, define a space for them to use – with flags – and then think about what you might add to it.
Some ideas for practitioners are:
- Collect stones and leaves and make shapes.
- Thread leaves.
- Look at the different leaf colours and make sounds with them.
- Add different elements to the space, e.g. earth (clay/mud/sand), air (running around), water (watch light materials float), and fire (make a fire, light a candle and make a wish).
Whatever you do, don’t overcomplicate it – use natural resources and keep it simple!
As humans, we are sensory beings, and in the early years, everything about discovery is in connection to the senses.
The outdoors often bring pleasant sights, sounds, and aromas. These senses support the body, allowing it to regulate itself – and a regulated body is a happy one.