“Open space allows children to be physically active and challenge themselves so they sleep and eat well and form healthy habits that will stay with them for life.” Play Strategy For Scotland 2013
Children need space to be children; to run, jump, climb, race and create a mess. Outside ‘classrooms’ can give them all this and the ability to work on a larger scale, as emphasised by the Early Years Foundation Stages. When outdoors, children have the freedom to explore and develop their physical boundaries, to take risks and to discover the real world using all their senses, creating positive effects on a child’s self-esteem, confidence, and wellbeing. Young children need the opportunity to use their whole body and develop their gross motorskills. It’s only when they have mastered these that they will be able to control their fine motor skills, such as using a knife and fork or holding a pencil, for instance.
Physical play allows children to expel energy and develop their physical capabilities, providing excellent multi-disciplinary learning opportunities, especially for young children where learning is best achieved through both sensory and physical experiences. Activities such as ball games, riding bikes, and simple playground games can be undertaken in groups or as a solitary experience; however, they provide an excellent way of promoting discussion, an understanding of risks and rule-setting; as well as improving co-ordination, learning about the natural environment and healthy lifestyles.
Outdoor activities, such as building a bug hotel, enable children to solve basic problems, nurturing creativity, imagination, invention, and resourcefulness, through discussing planning and materials, and learning about insects, measuring and construction methods. Activities such as this foster numerous learning opportunities across many curriculum areas allowing real-life problems to be discussed and answered in a more memorable way than reciting numbers, and within a non-judgemental framework, that builds self-confidence and concentration skills.
Children need opportunities to explore and discover the natural environment. Observing worms moving in the soil, examining bugs under rocks, listening to bird song and experiencing different weather patterns provide an open platform to question and extend children’s knowledge and vocabulary, as well as providing a means to discuss more mundane issues like hygiene and safety.
Most nursery outdoor areas will include a role play area, which children can adapt to impose their own meaning. These areas provide opportunities for rich socio dynamic play where children use their imagination to create a play environment and story, in a safe and secure environment. Storytelling is an excellent way of promoting not only communication skills but also sentence structure, descriptive adjectives and adverbs,