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By Tracey GodridgeResources Editor at Learning through Landscapes

When setting up your outdoor space, simple but effective changes can help you to deliver high-quality outdoor experiences, as Tracey Godridge explains

The outdoors is a special place for children and contributes enormously to their health, happiness, stimulation and development. Spending time outdoors is a necessary part of early years provision. The ‘Practice Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage’ states that ‘all early years providers must have access to an outdoor area which can benefit the children’ and that ‘being outdoors has a positive impact on children’s sense of well-being and helps all aspects of children’s development’.

It also recognises that ‘being outdoors offers opportunities for doing things in different ways and on different scales than when indoors’, that it gives children ‘first-hand contact with weather, seasons and the natural world’ and offers children ‘freedom to explore, use their senses and be physically active and exuberant’.

Sometimes, however, while you may know what you would like to offer children outdoors, making those first steps can seem overwhelming. The good news is that there are lots of low-cost ideas and solutions that can quickly and effectively transform your outdoors, and help you to create an invaluable outdoor experience.

Organise the transition zone

This is the area between indoors and out, a space where children and adults can contemplate or review activity, observe others and make choices – without being ‘in the way’. It is an essential and often neglected space in settings, and getting it right will make an enormous difference to the success of the outdoor spaces that your children have access to.

THINK ABOUT

  • a low-level coat/rainwear rack and a wellington boot shelf near the door to the outdoor space – this will support children’s independence and ‘free-flow’ movement between the indoor and outdoor halves of your provision
  • a device to slowly close the door to prevent it slamming
  • a doormat to avoid the outdoors coming in
  • a canopy over the outdoor part of the transition zone to provide more circulation and observation space, and offer an area for sheltered outdoor play when the weather is not so good.
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