Mar 24, 2021

The Importance of Outdoor Play and Learning

Forest School child playing at nursery

Within The Old Station Nursery Group, we aim to inspire, encourage and develop curiosity amongst the children, helping them to understand something new and learn along the way. At all of our nurseries, the children are given the opportunity to explore the outdoors and engage in a number of outdoor learning and play activities- with some of the nurseries being lucky enough to have their own Forest School.  However, throughout all the nurseries, one element that remains consistent is the opportunity for children to engage in learning outside of the indoor nursery setting.

Sparking the children’s curiosity with activities set outside is a fun and engaging approach to learning that supports the holistic development of children. As with everything we do, learning is centred around the children and their interests; providing hands on and active learning opportunities for children, surrounded by nature.

The Benefits of Outdoor Play & Learning

Apart from a change in scenery and the fun that comes with learning outside, there are many benefits that come from outdoor learning and Forest School. It is recommended that young children (under 5) are physically active for at least 180 minutes per day. Being outside, particularly when surrounded by nature encourages this and the woodland environment is great for providing various challenges and obstacles for children to navigate, as well as the ability to explore freely without space constraints or limits. Some of the benefits of outdoor play and learning include:

      • Encouraging independence- being outside in an abundance of space gives children the sense of freedom to make all sort of discoveries by themselves. They can start to develop their own ideas and create games and activities by themselves.
      • It helps with understanding potential risks. Planned activities in an outdoor setting help facilitate risks for children and with support from skilled practitioners, children begin to understand how to safely manage these for themselves as they find their limits and challenge them. It also provides more opportunity to take part in calculated decisions such as ‘should I jump off this log?’ or ‘can I climb this tree?’
      • It encourages an active lifestyle- meaning that children are more likely to continue to enjoy outdoor activities as they get older.
      • It allows for appreciation of nature and the surrounding environment, and therefore an understanding of the world that we live in. This is especially beneficial alongside sustainable practice and teaching the children how to look after the planet within the nursery curriculum.
      • Being outside also gives the children the opportunity to participate in activities that they are not able to do indoors and this in turn helps promote confidence and resilience. These outdoor activities help provide new experiences for children which require different skills. As children practise these skills, through patience, participation and a belief that challenges can be overcome, children will develop their self confidence and resilience. These skills can be transferred and built upon throughout the rest of their lives.
      • It also gives children the opportunity to acquire new skills. Children learn a variety of skills tailored to the outdoors, such as using certain equipment and tools. In our settings where we have qualified Forest School Practitioners, the children may even develop skills such as fire building and tying knots.

How to Implement Outdoor Learning & Play at Home

Outdoor learning and play doesn’t have to be restricted to nursery! There are some quite easy and simple activities that you can try at home, at the local park or in woodland near to where you live. Not only will these activities be fun for all of the family, they will have long lasting benefits for your child which complement the learning that we are doing at nursery.

So, here’s five easy outdoor activities to try at home, why not give them a go this weekend?

      1. Hide and seek: New environments are great to explore and what better way to really find the best hiding places than with a game of hide and seek. Hide and seek also offers a fantastic way to practise counting too as each time you could count higher.
      2. Scavenger hunt: There are many different types of woodlands in the UK and each has their own range of wonderful species. Children are naturally inquisitive and so, you could take an old egg box (very handy as they already have small compartments) to the woods and collect various objects. You could then sort them into different shapes, sizes or colours.
      3. Mud pies: A perfect activity for a wet and rainy day. All you will need is a bucket and a spade (however, a stick is a wonderful alternative). Children love to combine different materials and this is a natural way to explore cause and effect.
      4. Den building: Teamwork and communication are key for den building and what better way to develop these skills. Once constructed, dens make a great storytelling or picnic space.
      5. Bug hunt: The woodland environment is home to an abundance of wildlife and bugs. There is something to find in every corner and under every stone or log.

As a group of nurseries, we aim to inspire, encourage and develop curiosity amongst the children, helping them to understand something new and learn along the way. At all of our nurseries, children are given the opportunity to explore the great outdoors and engage in a number of outdoor learning and play activities. Some of our nurseries are even lucky enough to have their own Forest School Practitioners; but one element that remains consistent throughout is the opportunity for children to engage in learning outside of the indoor nursery setting.

Sparking the children’s curiosity with activities set outside is a fun and engaging approach to learning that supports the holistic development of children. As with everything we do, learning is centred around the children and their interests; providing hands on and active learning opportunities for children, surrounded by nature.

Apart from a change in scenery and the fun that comes with learning outside, there are many benefits that come from outdoor learning and Forest School. It is recommended that young children (under 5) are physically active for at least 180 minutes per day. Being outside, particularly when surrounded by nature encourages this and the woodland environment is great for providing various challenges and obstacles for children to navigate.

Being outside also gives the children the opportunity to participate in activities that they are not able to do indoors; this in turn helps promote confidence and resilience. These outdoor activities help provide new experiences for children which require different skills. As children practise these skills, through patience, participation and a belief that challenges can be overcome, children will develop their self confidence and resilience. These skills can be transferred and built upon throughout the rest of their lives.

Risks are everywhere and around every corner. Planned activities in an outdoor setting help facilitate risks for children and with support from skilled practitioners, children begin to understand how to safely manage these for themselves as they find their limits and challenge them.

In addition, being outside gives children the opportunity to acquire new skills. Children learn a variety of skills tailored to the outdoors, such as using certain equipment and tools. In our settings where we have qualified Forest School Practitioners, the children may even develop skills such as fire building and tying knots.

Outdoor learning and play doesn’t have to be restricted to nursery! There are some quite easy and simple activities that you can try at home, at the local park or in woodland near to where you live. Not only will these activities be fun for all of the family, they will have long lasting benefits for your child which complement the learning that we are doing at nursery.

So, here’s five easy outdoor activities to try at home, why not give them a go this weekend or over the Easter break?

  1. Hide and seek: New environments are great to explore and what better way to really find the best hiding places than with a game of hide and seek. Hide and seek also offers a fantastic way to practise counting too as each time you could count higher.
  2. Scavenger hunt: There are many different types of woodlands in the UK and each has their own range of wonderful species. Children are naturally inquisitive and so, you could take an old egg box (very handy as they already have small compartments) to the woods and collect various objects. You could then sort them into different shapes, sizes or colours.
  3. Mud pies: A perfect activity for a wet and rainy day. All you will need is a bucket and a spade (however, a stick is a wonderful alternative). Children love to combine different materials and this is a natural way to explore cause and effect.
  4. Den building: Teamwork and communication are key for den building and what better way to develop these skills. Once constructed, dens make a great storytelling or picnic space.
  5. Bug hunt: The woodland environment is home to an abundance of wildlife and bugs. There is something to find in every corner and under every stone or log.

Enjoy and have fun!


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