As you know, we are committed to ensuring your child/ren are offered daily outside play opportunities as required by the EYFS. We provide waterproof coats, keep spare clothes here in case children get messy and ask parents to send their child with suitable footwear and wellies in winter. We have covered areas at the back and side of the house and we have had AstroTurf laid in the back garden to provide an all-weather surface. We have toys and games we know the children enjoy using outside and we regularly add resources, asking the children to choose what they would like to play with in the garden.
There is no expectation for childminders to keep our doors open throughout the day – we have risk assessed and decided that free flow play (when an adult is not always outside with the children) is not safe. It can also be very difficult to ensure we are providing high quality educational outcomes for children if they are dashing about outside without adult supervision – so like most childminders we have a ‘one out, adult out’ policy.
This can make things difficult because some children might not want to go outside at the same time as others – we feel that it is important to find a balance that works for all the children. We talk to the older children about what they want to do through the day and where they want to play – we discuss the weather and the activities we have set out for them to use in the garden – we ask them what other toys and games they might want to use and we plan their day to offer both inside and outside play and to accommodate outings and other adventures. If the children are reluctant to go outside we generally find that a ‘we will all go outside after nap time’ or ‘let’s all play outside after morning snack’ offer will motivate the children to venture outside and see what is happening in the garden, especially if there are toys and games set out for them that they enjoy using.
We always plan a quiet area, away from the hubbub of play, for children who might not want to join in the activities we have offered. We add books, cushions, blankets etc depending on the children’s needs and the weather on the day. An adult is available to make sure the children who choose to sit quietly and watch know they can get involved at any time – and we balance their day to ensure they are getting exercise elsewhere during their time here. However, we are keen to make sure that our outside play planning complements what we offer children inside the house – we don’t need to duplicate everything!
Before any outside planning is considered, we complete a full risk assessment of the outside areas we are going to set up and use to take account of, for example –
- The play areas – garden, AstroTurf, covered area at the side of the house
- The flooring surfaces – to check they are clean and safe / non-slippy
- Standing water
- Trees, bushes and plants
- Toys and games – to check they are safe for the ages of children in the provision on the day
- The shed and other storage – to make sure children can safely access extra resources
- Weather conditions
- Children’s wellbeing – have they recently been ill? Are they asking to stay inside?
- Clothing available
- Drink provision – we have a water dispenser and cups for the garden
- Fence and gate security
- Age and stage of development of each child – what does each child in the provision need in place to enable them to play safely outside?
Once we have the basics in place – a commitment to go outside, a risk assessment for the outside area and appropriate clothing – our next step is to think about what each child enjoys doing at the moment.
Planning outside play – the best and most important planning we do in our provision is individual, based on each child’s likes and current interests. This individual planning, which we call ‘next steps’, is normally put together a day or so before the child attends because we want to respond to children’s interests at the moment. We don’t always write it down – we know our children well enough to plan their outside play without reams of written information…
- A child likes birds – so we put some binoculars and a bird spotting sheet outside for them to use;
- A child enjoys digging – you we set up the digging tools;
- A child loves doing rubbings – we provide him with paper and rubbing crayons outside and show him how to rub the trees, leaves, floor, walls etc.
Alongside individual planning, we have some group planning / activity ideas for all the children. These are based around our continuous provision resources – the toys and games we always have available for all the children to use through the day. Of course, the children do not need every toy and game out at once so we offer different experiences for them through the week, for example –
Creative experiences – May week 1
- Monday – music and rhymes outside
- Tuesday – decorating CDs for a display
- Wednesday – drawing caterpillars
- Thursday – dancing with scarves
- Friday – painting at the easel
Physical experiences – June week 2
- Monday – bikes
- Tuesday – bats and balls
- Wednesday – obstacle course
- Thursday – hopscotch
- Friday – balancing
At other times our outside play planning might be linked to our group themed activities, for example –
- We are covering a theme about Easter – so we plan an egg hunt;
- We are teaching the children about speed – so we set up a race track for the cars;
- We are learning about the weather – so we plan some age-appropriate weather experiments.
Outside play allows children to experience the weather and the changing seasons, so we always think about how we can include seasonal and weather related activities for the children to enjoy –
- Wind – flying kites, running like the wind, making windmills; reading ‘The Windy Day’ by Anna Milbourne and learning the poem ‘The north wind doth blow’;
- Rain – catching raindrops, counting rain, making rain pictures in puddles; reading ‘Splosh’ by Mick Inkpen and acting out songs such as ‘Rain, rain go away’ and ‘Doctor Foster’;
- Sun – making sunshines with yellow paint, drying dolls clothes, watching water disappear; singing ‘The sun has got his hat on’ and other sunny day songs;
- Fog – making foggy day pictures, watching your breath, playing hide and seek;
- Cold – playing with ice in warm water, exercises and dance to keep warm;
- Snow – catching snowflakes and bubbles, cutting snowflakes out of circles of paper, reading ‘The Snowy Day’ by Anna Milbourne.
Daily outside play is great fun and the children love going outside to see what we have set up for them to use in the garden. They enjoy having input into our planning as well – we are always keen to involve them and ask them what they want to do and where they want to play – because we know that when they are motivated to join in they will be learning at a much deeper level.
Parents – if you have any questions about the daily outside play opportunities we offer your child/ren, please ask us.
Early years providers – for more information about how you might plan for and offer opportunities for daily outside experiences, please see e-book 6 ‘Outside Play Planning’ from Knutsford Childminding.