When we accompany children outdoors to learn, it can take them outside of their comfort zone; and it can do the same to us as practitioners. Many working in Early Years settings are worried about real and perceived risks that are present when children are active outdoors, and this can be one of the main barriers to settings developing an integrated approach to outdoor learning.
The Yellow Door Blog
Outdoor learning is nothing new. Children have been learning outdoors, using their developing bodies and minds to make sense of the world around them, for thousands of years. However, there has been a decline in such involvement in the last few decades, with children spending more and more time indoors engaged in sedentary, technology-based activities or playing with machine-made toys and games. While there is nothing wrong with these types of activities in moderation, we need to be aware that children’s brains are hardwired to engage with the natural world, and unless they are exposed to such relevant environments on a regular basis, we risk denying them the opportunities they need for optimal brain development.
Young children build up an understanding of the world around them through a variety of play activities. This includes the use of digital technology. It is important, therefore, that all children become confident with this media in early years settings, especially those who do not have access to technology at home.
Digital resources need to be part of the learning environment of the current generation of children, in which the balance needs to be struck between technological confidence and screen time.
As manufacturers of early years resources, we are aware that tablet technology is readily available to young children. We are fascinated by the ways in which it adds value to the learning process, and the opportunities it offers to individual learners. We believe that such positive contributions are possible with appropriate practitioner engagement and software at the right developmental level.
It is vital for children’s optimal development that they have opportunities to take developmentally-appropriate risks in play. Being able to do so and experience the related benefits are crucial aspects of every child’s development. An environment that is risk-friendly is the best context for this to take place in. The pointers below will help to create a positive approach to risky play.
Speech and Language Therapist Wendy Lee shares with us her advice and suggestions for checking out children’s early speech and language skills. Wendy has worked as a speech and language therapist for 30 years and until recently was Professional Director at The Communication Trust. Wendy’s passion is for all children to be able to communicate to the very best of their ability. She is currently working independently, with schools, settings and national organisations on all things speech, language and communication.
There’s a familiar sense of change in the air as the autumnal mornings bring that fresh coolness and the sunlight has a feeling of maturity. September is a time of new starts – for children, their parents and practitioners. Whether it’s a first step for young learners from home to nursery or school, or a change from one setting to another, these are certainly times of adjustment that require sensitivity, discernment and often inspiration!
Here are five tried-and-tested ideas to help smooth transitions within your setting taken from Wendy Usher’s wonderful book Let’s Talk Behaviour!
Have you ever stopped to think of the dramas taking place in your setting’s outdoor space? Just like EastEnders or Downton Abbey, there is so much going on, even excluding the children’s dilemmas:
- The ants at the beck and call of their queen
- The lone wasp ready for a fight
- The gossiping sparrows
- The fearful hedgehog.
Every outside classroom is alive with stories just waiting for our children to become part of the drama. Perhaps this is what the eagle teaches us about open-air learning. We talk about people being eagle eyed, having the ability to look closely and notice things that others miss. If we pause in the outdoor spaces of our contexts and look closely we will notice how they invite us and our children to become part of their stories.
Here are some ideas to help you to pause and really look at your outdoor space throughout the seasons:
Subitising is a term that was coined by the theorist Piaget and defined the ability to instantaneously recognise the number of objects in a small group without the need to count them. An example often used to explain this, is to think of a die – we immediately recognise the number of dots without having to count each one individually.
Studies have found that most adults can subitise groups of items up to five. This is known as perceptual subitising. Beyond five, other mental strategies come into play for identifying the number of items in a group without counting them individually. These require some understanding of grouping and basic mathematics. For instance, when we see six dots on a die, we actually break this down into two groups of three which, when combined, gives us six. This is known as conceptual subitising and is an essential element for developing mathematical skills.
Each set of Sensory Stones includes a fantastic leaflet full of activities written by play specialist Wendy Usher. The ‘mark making with toast’ idea caught our attention – see step-by-step details of the activity below along with our results!
Sensory Stones enable children to have sensory experiences by experimenting with raised and indented shapes and patterns. Here, author and play specialist Wendy Usher shares her ideas on introducing the stones into a setting and some sensory play activities.