Tag Archive for: outdoors

20 Benefits of Outdoor Play for Little Ones

It's important that young children are given ample opportunity to play, learn and explore the many activities that only the outdoors allowsOutdoor play offers an enormous range of benefits to children, particularly during their early years. It’s therefore important that little ones, in particular, are given ample opportunity to play, learn and explore the many activities that only the outdoors allows — under adult supervision, of course. Outside, they’ll learn new skills and knowledge and will benefit both physically and mentally in ways that perhaps the indoors could never fully allow. So, if you are the parent or guardian of a child in their earliest years, take a look at 20 of the key benefits of outdoor play for little ones.

1. Outdoor Play is Great Fun!

Playing outdoors is generally great fun!We should not overlook the complete obvious — playing outdoors is generally great fun! That’s not a trivial thing and indeed it’s important for children’s wellbeing. After all, fun and games are all an essential part of any happy childhood. There is also no better way for little ones to learn than through play, so giving them the opportunity to play outdoors represents a much wider opportunity than anything they can do inside.

2. A Completely Different Set of Activities & Challenges

Outdoor play offers a largely different set of games, activities, challenges and exploration opportunities compared to those available indoors.Outdoor play offers a largely different set of games, activities, challenges and exploration opportunities compared to those available indoors. After all, it literally opens up a bigger world for children to experience. With the myriad of different environments available outdoors, whether man-made or natural, there’s simply more to do. So, the potential for a near infinite range of different activities and games is possible outdoors — each of which can teach children something new.

3. A Greater Sense of Adventure

As well as being a fun place to be, the outdoors will give children a sense of adventure.As well as being a fun place to be, the outdoors will give children a sense of adventure that is harder to replicate indoors. And adventure is all a healthy part of childhood, when you think about it.

4. An Escape from Electronic Screens

Outdoor play is also a very healthy release from spending time in front of electronic screens like TVs, tablets, games and maybe even mobiles if children have them. Studies and a good dose of common sense show that too much screen time is not good for children and getting them outdoors is a great way to go back to basics and enjoy more natural, active play.

5. New Knowledge

Children get to learn so many new things when taking part in the myriad of possible activities outdoors.Along with this bigger world comes greater knowledge, pure and simple. Children will get to learn so many new things, about both themselves and the world, when taking part in the myriad of possible activities outdoors. Whether it’s new knowledge about nature, the elements, materials, places or something else, there is so much knowledge out there to feed their young minds.

6. Outdoor Play Supports the EYFS Curriculum

The varied nature of outdoor play supports the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum in many different ways. This includes support for ‘prime’ and key’ areas including Physical Development, Communication & Language Development, Understanding the World, Personal, Social & Emotional Development and even Mathematics.

7. Outdoor Play Helps Mental Health

Spending time outdoors and fresh air, particularly when surrounded by nature, is known to help the mental health and wellbeing of both children and adults.Spending time outdoors and fresh air, particularly when surrounded by nature, is known to help the mental health and wellbeing of both children and adults. Study after study show this to be the case.

8. Feeding the Senses

The outside world is a rich stimulant of all the senses.All the senses are stimulated enormously when children take part in outdoor activities, play and exploration. The outside world is a rich stimulant of all the senses including sight, hearing, smell, touch and, with supervision and care, even taste. Proprioception (balance/movement) and vestibular sensing via body position are also particularly stimulated by outdoor play. Learn more about the importance of sensory perception here.

9. Deeper Friendships

Play-based outdoor activities are so different from those undertaken indoors and they also allow for different dynamics amongst children. Many are group-based or at the very least pair-based activities that are quite immersive. The combination of factors around outdoor play can lead to a wider circle of friends and deeper friendships. That can only be a good thing.

10. New Skills

Outdoor play and activities introduce children to completely new skills like teamwork, cooperation, leadership and more.The wider range of immersive activities available outdoors also introduces children to completely new skills. Just a few examples include teamwork, role-play, strategy and leadership.

11. Improved Communication Skills

Communication skills are also nurtured during outdoor play. Children playing outdoors, together, will need to learn to communicate clearly with each other as they go about joint activities and games. They’ll soon learn what communication strategies work, and which don’t.

12. Improved Strength, Fitness & Physical Development

Children playing outdoors are far more likely to be active and physical, expending energy, moving, running, jumping, climbing and more. All of that physical activity will help build strength, stamina and improve general fitness levels. In turn, this active play can lead to a more healthy BMI and help to reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity.

13. Improved Motor Skills, Balance & Coordination

Motor skills (both gross and fine), balance and coordination are also naturally going to improve with outdoor play.Motor skills (both gross and fine), balance and coordination skills are also naturally going to improve with all this more physical, outdoor activity. That’s incredibly important in their early years as they learn to control their bodies and movement so they’re able to stay safe from harm as they become more physically able.

14. Better Spacial Awareness

Spacial awareness is another sense that benefits through regular outdoor activity. With the greater freedom that the outdoors affords, young children will soon hone this essential skill that will help to keep both themselves and their peers out of harm’s way.

15. Expanded Risk Assessment Abilities

Risk assessment is something that children will have to do more outdoors than inside. The good news, though, is that it’ll be quite natural and largely instinctive for them to assess risk, perhaps without even being conscious that they are doing so. This is yet another skill that’ll help to keep children more safe.

16. Creative Inspiration

Whether it's building, inventing, making or simply observing, the outdoor world really stimulates children's minds to create.With all the opportunities that the outdoor environment offers children, it’s no wonder that it greatly stimulates their creativity. Whether it’s building, inventing, making or simply observing, the outdoor world really stimulates children’s minds to create.

17. Improved Self-Esteem

With new skills and abilities, children and their peers may begin to each other in a new, improved light. New abilities and deeper friendships will, in turn, boost children’s self-esteem, in a healthy, natural way.

18. Improved Self-Confidence

Better self-esteem will also make children more confident in themselves, as people, as well as in their abilities. This is a good thing and a way to help them thrive in the world and within their peer group and community.

19. Enhanced Preparedness for School

We run our own Forest School in Edgbaston, Birmingham.All these benefits help children to develop mentally, physically and socially and, in so doing, they will be better prepared when the time comes for them to move from pre-school to school.

20. Enhanced Preparedness for Life

By setting children up with the mental and physical tools that will help them to thrive, they will also be more prepared and equipped for life in general as they progress from infant to child and ultimately into adulthood.

Outdoor Play at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds nursery/pre-school has wonderful outdoor facilities where the children can play, explore and learn in a safe environment. It’s a stimulating and immensely enjoyable area where children can let their imaginations free to gain all the benefits that the outdoors has to offer. We also have our own Forest School in Edgbaston/Birmingham to take this a step further, out into nature. Children simply love it and learn so much!

Outstanding Childcare in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds is a childcare nursery & pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham, close to Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

If you’d like to explore our wonderful nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham or are looking for exceptionally good childcare near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please get in contact with us. We can show you and your child around, answer any queries you might have and give you any information you need. Please choose a button below:

Safety First

While outdoor play is fun and offers so many benefits for children, by its very nature it can be potentially more hazardous. Suitable adult supervision and safety measures should therefore always be in place for the safety and wellbeing of children playing outdoors.

Top 10 Nature Activities for Children
Following our November article, “Nature & it’s Amazing Benefits for Children”, we thought we’d follow up with some wonderful nature-based activity ideas for children to enjoy. As we saw in the aforementioned article, nature has enormous and incredibly varied benefits for children; even more so in their early years. Without going over previous ground in too much detail again here, nature benefits children’s minds, spirits and bodies and improves mental and physical health. The range of benefits is huge.
Slow worm found in the garden undergrowth on a sunny dayWith this in mind, we have put together our top ten list of activities that parents and carers can organise for their children in the natural environment.

1. A mini-beast hunt!

Whether undertaken in the garden, park or countryside, a mini-beast hunt is always a popular hit with young children. Fun and educational, a hunt for little creatures in a natural environment will always give children a real sense of discovery, adventure and accomplishment. See if they can find a bee, a spider, frog, ladybird, worm, ant, slug, snail, a slow worm. Or they could look for larger animals like birds, foxes and rabbits. Teach them to respect the creatures (even the scary ones) and to handle them with great care if touching them or picking them up. They’ll hopefully learn that each of these is a little being that’s going about its life and has its own needs and wants, just like humans, only a little different.

2. Feeding birds

Feeding birds is a great activity for childrenLeaving out suitable food for birds in the garden, balcony or windowsill can be a wonderful opportunity to see the different varieties of birds that live in the neighbourhood. A fun, creative way to do this is to save your used kitchen roll tubes and spread peanut butter onto them (so long as it’s the type with no added salt or sugar) and then that can be rolled in bird seed, which should stick. The finished rolls can be threaded with string and hung out for birds in suitable places. The best locations are off the ground (to protect from any cats) and ideally under the shade of a larger tree or overhang of some kind (so that they’re safe from birds of prey above). Note, too, that birds often take several days to begin to ‘trust’ any new addition to their neighbourhood, so don’t worry if they don’t come straight down for their new food — it may take a while. Feeding birds in this way can help children to learn the different types of birds as well as being a ‘natural’ activity that’s suitable in all weathers. After all, only the birds actually need to be outside in this case!

3. Gardening & Growing

If you have access to a garden, balcony, allotment or even windowsill, gardening can be immense fun for little ones. Tending to seedlings, planting seeds and even weeding can be an entertaining and worthwhile pastime for them. Children will also love watering them, picking flowers to make a nice bouquet or even harvesting fruit, vegetables and herbs to add to meals later on. Gardening is educational on so many levels and also gives children a useful sense of responsibility.

4. Building activities

Pebble stacks and other building activities are great fun for kidsThe outdoor world gives children wonderful opportunities for building things. For example, children can use sticks and small branches to build dens or camps. Another fun activity is to build wood block, rock or pebble ‘stacks’. These can look almost mystical when several are built. Take a look at the photo of our example. Remember, though, that health and safety is paramount, so young children will need supervision.

5. Creative activities

Gardens, hedgerows and the countryside can also give children excellent opportunities to be creative. For example, they can collect petals from different types of flowers. There are a few different, fun, things they can then do with them:

  • Mix them all together into a kind of natural confetti.
  • Make them into scented water by immersing them into a bowl of water and leaving them to soak.
  • Put them into a thin, plastic beaker, fill with water and then leave to set as ice in the freezer. These look fantastic when popped out after freezing — almost like a ‘frosty’ paperweight with the lovely petals showing through. Leave in the garden to gradually melt – they look wonderful.

Other fun, creative pastimes in nature include making daisy chains, threading leaves with rustic string (this is called ‘leaf threading’) and the resultant leaf chains can then be displayed indoors or hung up outdoors somewhere. Another fun activity involving leaves is face-making. Grab some paper plates, then harvest some leaves, small twigs and petals and then make them into faces on the plates (the plates forming the head).

6. A country walk of discovery

Baby rabbit spotted on a country walkIntroducing children to country walks or walks in the park during their early years will be enough to give many a lifelong interest in nature and the natural world. Walking can be a real adventure as you discover new places, sometimes amazing views and a variety of interesting flora and fauna. Walking in nature can be a real feast for the senses and it’ll help keep children more fit, both physically and mentally. It’ll also educate them gradually as they learn to recognise different types of trees, flowers, birds, animals and insects. Here’s a photo of a baby rabbit that we discovered on one of our walks.

7. Cycling

Similarly, cycling can get children out into the natural world and make it great fun. Whether it’s a toddler using a tricycle or a preschooler using a scooter or two-wheeled bike, this is an opportunity for all ages so long as the terrain is carefully chosen — ideally fairly flat, smooth and not muddy, especially for the young. Parks can be great as they tend to have decent trails and routes to follow, but respect walkers and give them the right of way, particularly on paths.

8. Picnics

In the spring, summer or autumn, there will be ample opportunities to have a picnic outside instead of eating at home. This can be in the garden, local park or countryside. Picnics can be immense fun and are an easy way to get children interested in the outdoor environment. Setting down a picnic on a grassy area also gives you all a ‘base’ around which children can play and explore after eating. A game of hide and seek will be an obvious extension of this. When they’re older and more self-sufficient, this can be developed further by expanding to more adventurous locations like riverbanks (so long as they can swim confidently) and more rugged countryside.

9. Camping

Fun with shelters at Forest SchoolUnder supervision, camping out in the garden or in the countryside can take picnics and country walks to the next level. You can combine them with an overnight stay under canvas. This can be as formal or ‘wild’ as parents see fit. Overnight camping, and all that goes with it, opens up a whole new world to children who will be able to enjoy new adventures under the stars, immersed in the elements, perhaps even learning how food or even toasted marshmallows can be cooked away from home on a natural, foraged log fire. Don’t forget, though; safety first!

10. Join a Forest School

Our top tip is for children to join a Forest School. At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, we run a Forest School for children aged up to five years of age in the Birmingham area. For people elsewhere, there are many others dotted around the country for children of all ages. Forest School gives children access to the natural environment, giving children the chance to enjoy nature, discover new skills, enjoy all the benefits of ‘The Great Outdoors’ and have enormous fun whilst doing so. It can positively change children’s outlooks on the world and this can benefit them mentally and physically for the rest of their lives. Learn everything you need to know about Forest School in our “Complete Guide to Forest School” here.

For those who don’t have a Forest School nearby, our activity ideas above may be useful for parents and carers. With these, they can help children have fun, learn and benefit from everything nature has to offer in gardens, parks and natural outdoor spaces nearby.

Contact our Birmingham Nursery

Leaps & Bounds would love to hear from you if you have a baby or child under five and are looking for suitable nurseries in the Edgbaston, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood, Smethwick and Birmingham areas. Contact us or book a visit here, or call 0121 246 4922 to speak to our staff. We’ll be happy to discuss a suitable childcare place for your child, to arrange a tour or to answer any questions that you might have.

Forest School - A Complete Guide

An under-five enjoying a Forest SchoolLeaps & Bounds Day Nursery offers children regular Forest School sessions as part of its curriculum. But, what exactly does ‘Forest School’ mean? In this article, we set out to explain what ‘Forest School’ is, what it stands for and what you and your children can expect from it. Our aim, in fact, is to tell you pretty much everything you need to know, and more.

Forest School

The “Forest School” ethos is described by the Forest School Association (‘FSA’) as:

“An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.”

Obviously, as a nursery and pre-school, we’ll slant this guide towards what it means to our early years age groups, however the same ethos and principles apply to all ages catered for within what we call Forest School.

History & roots

Fun with shelters at Forest SchoolThe Forest School approach has its roots in outdoor learning philosophies going back as far as the 19th Century. If you take a look, these influences alone will tell you a huge amount about what the Forest School approach stands for. They include:

  • Robert Baden Powell, founder of the Worldwide Scout Movement;
  • Leslie Paul, founder of The Woodcraft Folk;
  • Kurt Hahn, founder of Gordonstoun (where Prince Charles was partly educated), with its massive emphasis on outdoor education;
  • Susan Sutherland Isaacs, the renowned educational psychologist who, along with promoting the nursery school movement, emphasised the importance of learning through play and exploration in tandem with guidance from parents and adults;
  • The McMillan sisters, who were nursery school pioneers and set up The Open-Air Nursery School & Training Centre in 1914. They also believed that children learned best through exploration.

“Friluftsliv”

Educational fun in the outdoorsHowever, the biggest influence on the formation of Forest School came in 1993, when Bridgewater College nursery staff studied Denmark’s ‘friluftsliv’ (outdoors) approach to early years education. This outdoor, child-centred, play-based education system lay at the core of Scandinavia’s early years educational success and was enormously influential on those visiting for the study. After returning to Somerset, the nursery staff founded ‘Forest School’.

Just two years later, Bridgewater College began to offer a ‘B Tech in Forest School’. This course and qualification was offered to other early years practitioners, many of whom were already enthusiastic proponents of outdoor teaching and learning. In this way, Forest School soon spread to other UK early years and education settings. Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston (Birmingham) is one of them, presently having at least three of its own, fully-trained, Forest School leaders at any given time.

Learn more about the history of Forest School here.

Forest School today

Today, Forest School has its own association, the FSA, which oversees the work of practitioners and applies its philosophy and guiding principles to all Forest School settings around the UK. Those guiding principles include a framework of 6 key areas:Back to nature at Forest School

1. Regular sessions are attended outdoors, in the natural world, over the long term (not just occasional visits). The sessions are well structured and allow learning to progress and build upon itself as time goes by. There are usually sessions at least once every other week. Where practicable, they also occur within all four seasons.

2. The Forest School curriculum is best suited to woodlands or, in the absence of suitable local woodland, natural outdoor areas with, ideally, at least some trees. The aim is for a relationship to develop between the individuals and the natural world. Those learning are encouraged to explore and discover within the outdoor space. While access to woodland is preferred, it’s not essential. Indeed, it’s possible for urban early years settings to offer Forest School sessions from places like school grounds. However, in that scenario, practitioners may need to ‘import’ some natural learning materials into the setting (e.g. sticks, logs etc.) and make certain other provisions, as appropriate.

It’s also important that, wherever the Forest School sessions are held, any potential ecological impact will be closely monitored and mitigated.

3. It is a holistic approach, aiming at the development of the ‘whole’ person. This includes the fostering of traits like resilience, confidence, independence and creativity while also developing physical, emotional, social, linguistic and spiritual aspects.

4. Together with the Forest School practitioner, the learners will assess potential risks and benefits of activities pursued, as appropriate. The level of involvement of children in the risk/benefit assessment will depend upon their age and developmental stage.

Forest School5. Forest Schools require the practitioners leading sessions to be qualified to at least Level 3 accreditation. They also need to maintain and further develop their professional learning (as reflective practitioners, they are actually learners too). Each will have undergone the relevant checks for working alongside children, of course. They will also hold an up-to-date first aid qualification that includes paediatric and outdoor elements as appropriate.

6. The Forest School approach to teaching methodology is one that primarily focuses on the needs and interests of the individual who is learning. It is also, however, undertaken with a view to the experience being part of wider group undertaking, where a community is built around learning and development within the natural environment. Play is a big part of the learning, as is the building in of choice, personal preference and natural disposition. An element of reflection is also built into Forest School sessions so as to continuously appraise the progress of learning and development. Achievements are celebrated and observations are fed into the ‘scaffolding’ that makes up the longer-term plan for each individual.

Life-Long positive benefits

It’s important to understand that Forest School is an ‘ethos’ rather than a ‘destination’. Nursery schools and pre-schools therefore do not ‘become a Forest School’ as such. However, they provide Forest School programmes as part of their overall curriculum.

‘Forest School is a feeling you can’t put into words.’ (Tonicha, early years Forest School student)

Those attending can benefit from life-long positive effects that Forest School can bring them. On a personal note, as someone who was introduced to something very similar when I was a child, I can absolutely vouch for that statement. Having been introduced to The Great Outdoors from a young age, I can honestly say that it’s where I am happiest, decades on. It’s healthy — on so many physical and spiritual levels.

Being closer to the natural world teaches us so much about nature and existence — and also a huge amount about ourselves. It gives us a profound perspective on the world, which permeates into knowledge and wisdom relating to so many different aspects of life as a whole. That even sometimes includes areas that are, at least on the face of it, not even directly related to nature.

‘I don’t have ADHD when I`m out in the woods.’ (David, Forest School student)

The magic of the outdoorsFor young children, Forest School can also be something that helps them to experience regular successes, also often helping them to feel more valued and equal. It’s a fantastic ‘leveller’ and a great conduit for developing positive relationships with others, irrespective of things like background, ability and physical or mental challenges etc. In fact, Forest School can often give supposedly ‘challenging’ or ‘challenged’ children somewhere to absolutely flourish. It can bring formerly reserved individuals out of their shells and give them self-confidence and somewhere to have a voice. It can give others somewhere to feel more free … and free to be themselves. Some will realise they have skills they didn’t even know they had; leadership or critical thinking skills, for example.

More than anything though, Forest School is fantastic fun and somewhere that social bonds, social skills and life skills are developed absolutely naturally. It’s where learning, exploration, creativity and imagination combine with often remarkable results. As such, Forest School is priceless, when you think about it.

A Forest School place for your child in Birmingham

If you are interested in a Forest School place for your child in the Birmingham area, Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery can help. Our nursery/pre-school in Edgbaston offers Forest Schooling in the B16 postcode, so is ideal for those looking for Forest Schools near Birmingham, Egbaston, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. Call 0121 246 4922 or contact us here for more details and we’ll be delighted to help.