The sun has finally got his hat on and spring is in the air at last! Although we do our best to get our little ones outside throughout the winter, when the sun shines it feels a little easier. Outdoor play hit the headlines last summer, with a report published warning us that children do not go outdoors as much as they used to and that outdoor experiences actually boost learning.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? You probably remember when you were younger having more freedom, fewer or no opportunities to play on ipads, tablets, phones and gaming devices, and lots of time to play outside.
Playing outside is fun and children can learn lots, too. I was told of a city toddler, who, growing up in London had not seen an apple tree before, let alone an orchard. His mum took him to visit an orchard and he saw apples growing on a tree for the first time. He remarked, “Mummy, why did someone stick all those apples in the trees?”
We may smile at this naivety, however, a recent report from the National Trust found that one in three children could not identify a magpie; half could not tell the difference between a bee and a wasp; yet nine out of ten could recognise a Dalek!
Here are a few ideas of how you might want to encourage your children to go outside, play and learn this spring:
- Take advantage of the benefits of being outdoors – play can be bigger, noisier and linked to the natural environment
- Take all areas of learning and development outside e.g play games involving maths (number hunt in the garden, counting petals on flowers, finding shapes in the natural environment etc.)
- Grow fruit and vegetables to promote healthy eating, as well as demonstrate how plants grow and where our food comes from
- Teach children about looking after their world – environmental citizenship, through recycling projects, sourcing sustainable resources and sharing with them information about the natural world
- Go on a mini-beast hunt!
- Be a role model – go outdoors with your children in all weathers; invest in some good quality waterproofs and wellies for you and the children
- Practice what you preach – so during ‘Run to Rio’ events or ‘Golden Boot Challenges’ at school or nursery, do the 5K jog or walk to work!
- Get parents and grandparents involved in the setting by organising a camp-out, getting children much closer to nature!
- Create a mud kitchen in your garden or outside area
- Even the smallest yard is home for many birds and animals, so create a bug hotel or hang a bird feeder on the fence
- Ensure that outdoor learning is always an option during free-flow play
- Plan themes and topics that naturally encourage more outdoor learning – e.g. mini-beasts, weather, growing, lifecycles etc.
- Get involved with Forest School Education or Eco-Schools and Nurseries
- Browse the catalogues for ideas or invest, if you can, in some lovely resources to support you (cosy and muddy faces)
- Become a RSPB wildlife explorer and give nature a home
It’s so important for us to buck the trend of being sedentary and engage in more outdoor play. We can also offer parents and carers some ideas of how to get their children more active in simple and free ways:
- Go on scavenger hunts
- Try the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ challenge
- Visit our lovely beaches, forests and National Parks
- Go on wildlife hunts in the garden, play area or city park
- Share ideas for parents from Learning through Landscapes
So get your hat on, and whatever you do this spring – go outside!
About the author
Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.
With new game app Pokémon Go taking the world by storm, there are safeguarding concerns for nurseries following problems in the US.
Last week a childcare centre in America has removed itself as a Pokémon Go hotspot after complaining about strangers lurking around the property.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game where users try to capture virtual creatures, called Pokémon, which appear on their screens as if they were in the same real-world location as the player.
The childcare centre above appeared as a ‘gym’ in the game. ‘Gyms’ are battle arenas for players and are allocated to community centres and local landmarks.
Jo Baranek, Lead Early Years Advisor at the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “Pokémon Go has clearly got its good points, in that it’s getting people out and physically active. But if people are hanging around outside nurseries this presents a safeguarding issue.
“If a nursery becomes a popular place for gamers and attracts a lot of people, not only does it make real threats harder to spot but it publicises its location to those who wouldn’t normally be there. It could also create a reason for unsavoury characters to hang around with phone cameras at the ready.”
If a nursery is made into a ‘gym’ and would like to be removed from the game, they can submit a request to the game’s developers – see a web link at the end.
Jo advises that nursery staff can also take practical measures with children at their setting: “Staff and parents need to make sure young children are aware of basic safety measures, such as not talking to strangers, not wandering around alone and reporting any worries to a trusted adult.
“Don’t forget to make staff aware too, so they aren’t distracted or playing the game while driving close to the nursery – and remind parents about general monitoring of apps and IT.”
If children are interested in playing Pokémon Go with their parents or carers, Jo points out that it’s a good time of year to get out and about without looking at a screen: “You can encourage children to find other ways to get outside that involve looking for what is actually out there.
“For example summer is a great time to do a nature scavenger hunt, so children can use their observation skills in a better way and engage with nature.
“There are obvious safety issues connected to children walking while looking at screens, as there are for adults, such as bumping into objects, falling down holes and walking into roads. Parents need to consider this if their children show an interest in the game.”
To contact game developers Niantic to request the removal of a PokéStop or Gym, click on ‘Troubleshooting’ under the support section of their website here.
Have you experienced any issues with Pokémon Go around your nursery? Get in touch with your stories – email email@example.com or call the press office on 01484 407066.