Working in early education means you are no stranger to the importance of the outdoor environment. However, when society has been so focused on education taught in an indoor environment, practitioners can often be afraid of the unknown and how to become creative outdoors.
Fairy tales bring adventure, magic and imagination to young children – a great recipe for learning through play! Children become fascinated with make-believe, their innocence allows them to believe in every possibility whilst creating and engaging in play with their peers and teachers.
As early years practitioners, we usually feel the need to use many different resources to aid play and teaching, yet, more often than not, the best activities are minimalistic, or provided by the environment. The natural world has so much to give and when you look you will see that it is rich in resources, ready to be used in a creative manner. Step out of your comfort zone as this is where the magic happens… quite literally!
“Children need to be captivated and engaged to learn, or have a hands-on experience.” – Jamie Victoria
I often create small letters from fairies, pixies or other made-up mythical characters and I hide them in the woodlands, parks or nursery gardens for the children I am teaching to find. The joy and anticipation upon finding one of these letters is wonderful to watch, and the children become engaged, animated and excited to find out what the letter says…
“Dear Children, my name is Lily the Woodland Fairy. My friend Sneeze, who is a very friendly dragon, has had a terrible cold which has made him sneeze even more than normal! Yesterday he accidentally sneezed and blew away our fairy village! Do you think you could work together and help to rebuild it? Love Lily the Woodland Fairy”
This simple letter can be the start of a fantastic activity, full of exploration and learning. As teachers, I encourage you to get involved and build part of the fairy village with the children. It will support them with their ideas and confidence in how to use the natural resources around them; using sticks to create structures, moss/leaves to make carpets, stones for borders…the possibilities are endless.
Most importantly, allow the children to make their own creations. It helps to build their self-confidence and personal skills. I am never too worried about a session going exactly as I had planned because children are fluid and I want them to lead their own paths. Usually, the fairy villages end up far better than I could have ever imagined! No mind works the same, so it is crucial to be flexible and give the children the opportunity to express their ideas and designs – I would have never thought about the necessity for a village washing line!
Another example of how to incorporate fairy tales into the natural environment is to use the power of children’s books. For example, I will read the Gruffalo to the children in the woods, and then begin to extend the story by asking the children if they would like to help build the homes for all the characters in the book (snake, fox and owl), using natural resources. Once the children are engaged in the activity (and it is OK if some don’t want to participate, spontaneous play is hugely beneficial), it’s a great opportunity to ‘act out’ the whole story from start to finish as a group, moving around, using different voices and having fun!
I would argue that any outdoor activity can relate to most, if not all, areas of the EYFS. A simple yet effective activity like the Gruffalo story supports all of the EYFS areas, including the specific, and here’s how:
Personal Social & Emotional: The children are interacting socially and are learning how to share and to take turns with all the resources and their ideas. They have to use their empathy skills to support each other and build upon their emotional intelligences.
Communication & Language: The children are communicating with each other and the teacher to broadcast their ideas, using verbal and non-verbal means. The storytelling allows for rich language to be heard and understood.
Physical: The outdoor environment provides opportunity for a wealth of physical activity; the children are moving and handling resources, walking, running and navigating the space around them.
Understanding of the world: The children are in the natural world to begin with. They are taking in their surroundings, finding insects as they move logs, noticing the changes of the seasons and the plants growing or decaying.
Literacy: Reading the story from start to finish and immersing themselves in it by acting it out, living the story through movement and voice.
Expressive Arts & Design: Being imaginative, this activity ignites that for the children for they are imagining the story and will incidentally evolve the story and continue to play after the main activity has ended.
About the author
The Childcare Guru, otherwise known as Jamie Victoria, has dedicated her career to the study of Early Years and is immensely passionate about childhood, education and development. Jamie is hugely passionate about inspiring professionals through her consultancy and training sessions, to ensure all children are supported in having an early years experience that is second to none.
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